NSW Farmers backs new sheep breech modification category

Sheep Central, March 16, 2020

NSW Farmers Wool Committee chair Andrew Wood

NSW Farmers have controversially backed the inclusion of an alternative breech modification or mulesing method category on the Australian Wool Exchange’s National Wool Declaration.

In a statement released late last week, the New South Wales’ state farming body’s wool committee said it has backed changes to the declaration, including the creation of an additional mob mulesing status.

NSW Farmers said the new status would cover wool from sheep that were not mulesed, but have been treated with an alternative method of breech modification, such as sheep freeze branding.

In the third round of consultation on its latest review of the NWD, AWEX proposed that the definition of NM include a reference to AM:

NM: All sheep in this mob are not mulesed, and no alternative method (AM) to mulesing has been used.

AM: All sheep in this mob had an alternative method (AM) to mulesing used (may contain non-mulesed sheep).

This has been supported by non-mulesed wool producers and sheep breeders. However, it has been opposed by peak grower body WoolProducers Australia and the developer of the sheep freeze branding process.

On the current NWD under review, wool from sheep that have undergone freeze branding is considered as ‘non-mulesed,’ because the current Australian definition of mulesing stipulates the use of shears. An earlier attempt by AWEX to include a second NM category (NM2) on the NWD for processes such as freeze branding met industry-wide opposition.

NSW Farmers Wool Committee chair Andrew Wood said the aim of the NWD was to promote transparency across the wool supply chain.

“This change will certainly boost transparency.

“It will demonstrate to customers that the wool industry is serious about investing in mulesing alternatives and give customers a clearer idea of what wool they are purchasing,” Mr Wood said.

“Customers will be able to make purchasing decisions based on their desired mulesing status.

“They may want wool from a sheep genetically breed to be non-mulesed or from one that has had some form of breach modification,” he said.

“The purchasing behaviours of buyers will then shape on-farm practices as producers try to meet the markets demands.”

Mr Wood also reiterated that NSW Farmers have been active in the NWD review process to date and have been pursuing our policy that the NWD be made a condition of sale for all wool sales.

“We have also requested that the ‘pain relief’ mulesing mob status be renamed analgesic/anaesthetic (A/A).”


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Simon Gatenby, March 20, 2020

    Pain relief — either you use it or you don’t. That should be the number one driver for animal welfare, not whether you mules or not. It seems ludicrous that farmers get a premium for non mulesed wool when they don’t use pain relief at lamb marking. Tail docking and castration both need to be done for superior animal welfare and management reasons, but are significantly more painful than mulesing, in my opinion, after years of observation at lamb marking. Nobody seems to be acknowledging the whole lamb marking process, just a piece of it. Either you are on board with pain relief or not.

  2. Jack Cleary, March 16, 2020

    Performing to customer requirements requires quality assurance and checks at all stages. An intelligent and rationally-defensible approach is wise to be co-ordinated, so that customer foibles as opposed to solid and consistent needs do not make change unduly difficult.

    The producer has also to present a united front, the best care and the best production and quality assurance, not a disparate one. Stop fighting and join forces for the best and consistent Australian product.

Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -