Stock Handling & Animal Welfare

Merino breeders and processor oppose wool declaration changes

Terry Sim, January 20, 2020

Karbullah Poll Merinos principal Mark Murphy

NON-MULESED Merino sheep breeders and an international processor have this week come out in opposition to proposed changes to Australia’s National Wool Declaration.

The Australian Wool Exchange is seeking industry feedback to a proposal to define wool from sheep treated with freeze branding as ‘non-mulesed,’ in an alternative NM2 category on the NWD.

AWEX is also proposing that wool from non-mulesed sheep be categorised as NM1 on the NWD and wants industry feedback before by the close of business on 31 January 2020.

However, this week, Queensland Merino breeder Mark Murphy and New South Wales breeder Norm Smith released a petition opposing the AWEX proposal.

The two breeders said the industry and customers require a continued clear definition of ‘non-mulesed’ (NM) status from Australian growers.

“This is a black and white issue – we do not need to muddy the waters.”

“The industry needs to uphold the status of  AWEX “Non-Mulesed”, so that our customers know that they are getting the true “cream” – Australian “Non-Mulesed” wool,” the breeders said.

They have circulated a ‘letter of objection’ among interested growers to sign, which be forwarded to AWEX chief executive officer Mark Grave by 31 January.

Mr Murphy said he also did not support the NWD status quo, which defines wool from sheep treated with freeze branding as ‘non-mulesed.’

“I can’t think of any wool buyers, especially those buying non-mulesed wool, who thinks this is the right way to go at all.

“I know the groups like FOUR PAWS are dead against it.”

Interested growers who want no amendments to the current NM status on the NWD are being urged to email Mr Murphy on [email protected] and agree to add their name and email address to the letter of objection. This will be forwarded to AWEX chief executive officer Mark Grave before 31 January 2020.

Processor also opposes a second NM category

International processor Giovanni Schneider with his daughters.

International wool and natural fibre processor Giovanni Schneider said: “NM must remain NM in the real sense.”

“We are concerned with the confusion that NM2 will bring.

“We are in the industry and for us it’s fairly logical,” he said.

“But for our customers (retail) it will create another level of huge confusion, marketing manipulation and price confusion.

“Until scientific support is presented and the alternative methods are either accepted as NM or not, then they should be excluded,” Mr Schneider said.

“We agree there should be a new category for wools rated with intradermal injections or liquid nitrogen, but these should not be called NM2, this is really misleading.”

Mr Scheinder said the proposed AA category (previously called pain relief) on the NWD should be for those sheep that have been treated pre-operatively and post-operatively, as the abbreviation suggests.

“It’s a better pain management outcome to use both as suggested by CSIRO studies and we should encourage this practice.

“Other country origins don’t have this possibility yet so it has potential to drive demand for Australian wool and will prepare us in advance for the next phase potentially concerning tail docking and castration,” he said.

“Simply renaming the PR is not going to fool any customer.

“It might have worked some years ago when the retailers were not that informed about mulesing, but that train is passed.”

Mr Schneider said PR should remain on the NWD for TriSolfen use — or for other post-operative treatments — only.

“This should be unchanged.

“After all it is ‘pain relief’ applied after the procedure,” he said.

“Even if PR alone does not attract any premium from the market, it is still a better practice.”

Click here to read the letter of objection opposing the AWEX NM category changes.

AWEX is seeking feedback on new NWD draft version 8.0 by the close of business Friday January 31, 2020. The proposal and draft NWD v8.0 can be accessed though the AWEX website here.

Submissions must be in writing and include the name and address of the author/organisation. Emails are welcome and encouraged to ensure submissions are received by the closing date. Feedback is to be returned by COB 31 January 2020 to Mark Grave, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Wool Exchange Limited by email: [email protected] or by post: PO Box 651, North Ryde, NSW 1670.


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  1. Peter Campbell, January 29, 2020

    Retain NM as the only status for the wool from non-mulsed sheep on the NWD.

  2. Mirella O'Sullivan, January 28, 2020

    As wool growers, we have worked very hard over many years to produce plain-bodied sheep which do not require mulesing. We went down this road because we felt that it was much better for the wellbeing of our livestock and also to comply with the expected standard worldwide. It was not easy and did take years to achieve. I feel that adding the freeze branded alternative to the non-mulesed status is not reflective of the true meaning of having a sheep that has been bred specifically to not require surgical removal or otherwise of the wool around the breech area. In my opinion, if a sheep requires freeze branding it will still have the potential for body strike as well. I applaud this measure for those producers who are unable to not mules their sheep, as it appears to be a cleaner and more humane method of the permanent removal of wool from the area. However, I do not agree at all that it can be in the same category as non-mulesed, because these animals still require some intervention and do not have some form of natural immunity to flystrike. Obviously, all sheep have the potential to become fly-struck for whatever reason, but in a sheep that is bred to not require mulesing it is very unlikely. The only way to have a true non-mulesed sheep is to genetically breed one. It can be done and has been done and I feel that, that commitment has been acknowledged as its own category and should continue to be so.
    Mirella O’Sullivan

  3. Eilan Donan Merinos, January 22, 2020

    Well said, Andrew Farran.

  4. Andrew Farran, January 22, 2020

    WoolProducers Australia is wrong to oppose the AWEX proposal to add a NM2 category to the NWD.

    To say it might cause confusion is a bit weak, when NM2 is clearly defined, as it will be.

    The objective of the NWD is to discourage mulesing while recognising that the industry by and large has not reached the point of abolition without an effective alternative. The road to an effective alternative is not straight, but in the meantime there are evolving measures in that direction which allow growers to stop mulesing or greatly reduce its incidence.

    Liquid nitrogen is such a measure. It does not involve mulesing so it is not mulesing and if used exclusively of mulesing, then it can be asserted logically that the grower has ceased mulesing.

    The question whether liquid nitrogen causes pain has not been concluded as yet. Liquid nitrogen is used on humans. Apart from a cold sensation it does not cause pain. In any event a grower that applies pain relief in conjunction with liquid nitrogen should meet reasonable requirements.

    The new category of NM 2 should be supported. It can be expected to discourage mulesing without complicating consequences for growers or the market.

    A positive step.

  5. Deane Goode, January 21, 2020

    There is only one process that results in non-mulesed sheep – no modification at all. Just use good genetics. Let’s not muddy the waters again. How can we sign the petition?

    • Victoria Murphy, January 22, 2020

      Dear Deane
      You can forward a letter to Mark Grave, AWEX directly
      By email: [email protected]
      By post: PO Box 651, North Ryde, NSW 1670

      or email us at [email protected] and we can add you name to our letter to Mark Grave.
      Thank you for voicing your opinion. This is our industry and we need to hear voices.
      Vicki Murphy

      • Deane Goode, January 23, 2020

        Hi Victoria,
        Please add my name to your petition. I have spoken to Mark Grave prior to their last AWEX meeting and voiced my opinion. I was given the standard “We will consider all submissions and make a decision in due course.”
        I will now write to him and add weight to the retention of non-mulesed wool being from sheep that have had no interference with their skin at all.
        Using the right genetics is the only way to become non-mulesed and also rid oneself of the reliance of topical chemicals – standards that the consumer is increasingly demanding.
        We must not allow these “easy solutions such as clips and nitrogen” be classified in the same box as NM. We have done the work to get to where we are and that is what all producers should do.
        Regards Deane Goode
        Kingston SE SA
        0419 866867

  6. Peter Small, January 20, 2020

    In respect to the NWD, can I suggest we listen very carefully to what our customers are telling us? Our arrogance on this issue has already led to unnecessary confusion in the market. May I suggest we listen carefully to Giovanni Schneider? NWD’s must be simple, transparent and accurate. Complexity only creates more confusion.

  7. Donald Cameron, January 20, 2020

    A sheep is either mulesed or not mulesed, just as a sheep is either pregnant or not. No sheep is half pregnant, nor half mulesed.

    Those who mulese, use various dubious potions, and then claim the sheep is not mulesed, probably created the joke:

    What’s green and has wheels? Grass, I lied about the wheels.

    This is Australia’s reputation paraded on the world stage. Surely the Federal Agriculture Minister should lead from the front,
    step in and protect our international reputation from being sullied, particularly by those with vested interests.

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