MULESING would not be banned by the current Federal Government, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has told South Australian sheep producers.
Following the announcement that New Zealand would ban the surgical mulesing and tail-stripping of sheep, there has been concern among some Australian producers about any legislative moves to also outlaw the flystrike prevention practice.
At the Jamestown Show’s inaugural Ag Industry Q & A last weekend, Meat & Livestock Australia director Andrew Michael and Southern Australian Meat Research Council regional chair Jane Kellock urged action on mulesing, contending the practice was an issue for meat and wool producers and flock owners should breed towards abandoning the practice. Both operate non-mulesed Merino flocks.
However, Mr Littleproud was told in a question from the Q&A crowd that sheep producers could not breed non-mulesed flocks “overnight” and many would be put out of business if mulesing was banned.
“I can assure you that we won’t be banning it,” the minister said.
Mr Littleproud said it is important that Australia needed to work with its trading partners so they understand that “while we do the transition in a humane way that is acceptable to them and their standards.”
“But it is important – I mean you as levy payers, the Australian Government, you as taxpayers, pay money to our research and development corporations to get the job right on this.
“And the expectation is that that happens and continues to happen to give them you the confidence, whether it is through breeding or through any other means – that’s the expectation,” he said.
“I’m no expert, but that’s why we put the money in, for the experts to tell us.
“But I can assure you, it (a mulesing ban) won’t happen from the Australian Government and particularly while I’m agriculture minister,” Mr Littleproud said.
“But we’ve got to be pragmatic, because there are markets, as Andrew said, that are temperamental with this.”
Mr Michael said there were lots of people in the Australian sheep industry with a vested interest, who don’t want to see change on the mulesing issue.
“We have to breed towards it (non-mulesing); it can be done and it can be done in a very financial way.”
Australian Wool Innovation chief executive officer Stuart McCullough conceded there were breeding techniques producers could use. He admitted that despite AWI undertaking research into clips, lasers, Skin Traction and liquid nitrogen as mulesing alternatives, “we haven’t cracked it.”
“One thing I know for sure is that the pressures on animal welfare from the Northern Hemisphere aren’t going away.
“They are only going to become more profound—Gen Y and Gen Zs are very interested in knowing where their product comes from, how it is was treated, how the supply chain treated it, and how it is going to be disposed of,” he said.
“For wool, that works rather well, but we do have our issues and you’ve raised a big issue.
“We haven’t developed pre-operative analgesia, we have a post-operative analgesia,” Mr McCullough said.
“There’s a breeding technique you can use, but it’s a very, very complex and hard thing to solve.
“We will continue to work in this space in the absence of a cost-effective and equally good alternative, and you must keep those animals alive,” he said.
“You will use the practices you use to keep those animals alive.”
Mr Michael said MLA “has very much got it (mulesing) on its books” and the issue would be discussed at future research and development meetings.
“It’s a serious issue – we are looking at research options.”
After the Q & A forum, Mr Michael said he has never said that producers should stop mulesing or that it should be banned.
“I think we should all breed towards it (non-mulesing), because I think inevitably something will happen and we need to be able to adjust when the time comes.”
Other Q & A panel members were Primary Producers SA executive chair Rob Kerin, Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey and Dog Fence Board member Christobel Treloar. The session was chaired by meat industry innovator Jordy Kitschke.
Mulesing is barbaric and I am so disappointed to hear that the Australian wool-producing industry has taken a backward step and that politicians can put their name to these decisions is revolting. Shame on them.
At the very least, there should be a regulation that wool producers declare that their wool is produced using these methods at the point of purchase.
Littleproud should never be allowed to have an opinion on animals as he has proven in the past that he has no compassion.
It’s so frustrating for me that people in power are always the wrong ones and totally unsuitable for the role.
I think mulesing should be banned. It is a barbaric practice and is extremely cruel, painful and like torture. Australia should be a country known for its innovation, not barbaric tortuous practices to our sheep.
In the future, more and more businesses and corporations will refuse to buy wool from any sheep farm that carries out mulesing.
It is a a terrible thing to do and a lot of sheep farmers do it with no pain killers and just strap the lamb down and cut the flesh from its bottom. This is an abhorrent practice and any decent human being would not do it. It should have been outlawed years ago. It’s plain and simple, disgusting cruelty to animals.
Some would suggest a conflict of interest between AWI director and performance recording breeders.
Mulesing is a 70 year-old practice, which is still not working when body strike is taken into account. Surely the Australian wool grower can see mulesing is wrong and completely out of date. As you can see from the above comments, there is definitely a solution and it is simple and not complex as Mr. McCullough would have you believe. Come on Australian wool growers, do not lose our industry because of a backward practice. Surely, the population of the world is giving us a warning to cease mulesing? Why can’t Australian Wool Innovation admit there is a simple alternative? And why isn’t it being conveyed to the Australian sheep breeders and levy payers?
AWI would have sheep breeders believe that it is too difficult to breed Merino sheep that do not need to be mulesed. In practice, it can be achieved in two sheep generations. The process begins with the selection of plain-bodied rams with a plain or bare breech. The response is seen in the first generation. In addition to a no need for mulesing, the need to jet for body strike protection is eliminated. An added feature of plain-bodied Merino sheep is their high fertility and survival rates. Having run Merino sheep in the past that needed mulesing and jetting, the comparison is obvious. I am not going back to previous practices. This has been achieved using the genetic solution system and following a breeding plan.
Baderloo SRS Poll Merinos have been bred using a strategic, but simple method, as a registered SRS stud. The process of breeding Merinos with zero tolerance to skin wrinkle and a thin, loose supple skin allows the animal to increase fleece weight through measured follicle density with highly-aligned fibres. This type of fibre is not susceptible to fleece rot, eliminating body strike. The same applies for breech strike. Mulesing was developed to remove skin wrinkle around the breech and create an area of scar tissue that is free of wrinkles, so as not to create an area for flies to attack. So therefore, by breeding a sheep with the skin structure of an SRS Merino, mulesing is no longer necessary. Baderloo is converting flocks to non-mulesing very quickly, from a strong background of tight wrinkly sheep that are highly susceptible to breech and body strike. It’s very simple, we have done all the work for you over the past 18 years. We rarely use chemicals on our sheep and never apply chemicals as a method of preventing fly strike. We have a ewe mortality of less than 0.5 percent, wean over 130pc of lambs from ewes joined and have bred a robust sheep with proven measured muscle, fat and high growth rates. Tell me how this is not productive? If mulesing is so effective at preventing breech strike, why does everyone crutch their sheep?
We stopped mulesing our ultrafine Merinos in 2006 with effective ease through sourcing SRS superfine rams. Within a few years this simple and easy genetic change came with additional benefits of high quality ultra-soft white disease-free Merino fleeces. Added bonuses have been the increase in eye muscle diameter, carcase size and low worm egg counts, resulting in easy-care plain-bodied ultrafine Merinos.
At Parkdale SRS Poll Merino Stud Dubbo and associated properties north of Bourke we run 21,000 Merinos that are not mulesed. We have not mulesed since 2004. Nor have we used fly protection chemicals. We have just finished lambing 5000 ewes at Bourke in 5000 acre paddocks that can be difficult to muster. The sheep have no fly protection. I personally inspected the sheep yesterday and the ewes have no flystrike on the tail or body of any sheep. When we started to change our breeding from a traditional flock 20 years ago there wasn’t a lot of genetics available to change to a non-mulesed status quickly. Also, we have learnt much more over this time and the transition to a non-mulesed flock is very straight forward and simple. It can be done in one generation. If only I knew this when I was younger. As an industry, don’t let the next generation of sheep breeders and managers go through what we had to endure.
I know where the mainstream industry is; I was there. There is no way I’ll be going back. Don Mudford.
Mr McCullough, the SRS breeding system is highly effective in producing non-mulesed Merino sheep that are resistant to fly strike of all forms. It has been in place since 2008, and as early as 2001, on all of the SRS Merino studs in Australia. The sheep bred this way excel for fleece quantity and quality and wool processing performance. The skin type — a loose and supple skin on a sheep with absolutely no body wrinkle — and the corresponding fleece structure, represent sheep bred with high wool follicle density and fibre length. The wool fibres are fine and highly uniform in diameter and length and cylindrical in shape. Chemicals are used sparingly, if at all. The SRS fly-resistant genotype is distinctly different to most Merino sheep being bred. Most Merino sheep are being bred with body wrinkle, an attempt to increase body surface area to increase fleece weight. This approach leads genetically to a rapid deterioration in wool quality, which the Australian wool market can ill-afford.
Mulesing is not loved by anyone. Some regions of Australia can not forego the practice. It needs to be reinvented as it is. It can be done humanely. Breeding is a very uneconomical choice. Production makes money, a bare breech doesn’t.
Mr McCullough, there definitely are breeding alternatives to mulesing, and they are very simple, far from being very complex as you stated. SRS breeders all over Australia have “cracked it” and have bred highly productive sheep with wrinkle-free skins that no longer require mulesing. We ceased mulesing over 10 years ago due to our sheep having had the wrinkle bred out of them. We no longer have breech strike or body strike. It’s not hard at all.
The solution is simple. We need lambs and we must keep them alive. To get lambs you need rams. Bare-breeched non-mulesed and plain bodies. Lambs pre-mulesed and fly-resistant. No government, no mulesing and no chemicals. All done in three years. The only cost is the ram, and you need him anyway.