Sheep defleecing researchers aim at on-farm testing in 2025

Terry Sim, March 22, 2023

A uniform fleece coat left underneath the weakened staple zone on a sheep treated for chemical defleecing. Image – Phil Hynd.

BIOLOGICAL defleecing researchers at the University of Adelaide hope to undertake large scale on-farm testing of the wool harvesting technology in 2025.

Australian Wool Innovation is currently funding a $1.4 million project by the University of Adelaide to develop the use of amino acids to effect a break in wool fibres while retaining follicles in the sheep’s skin and allowing the painless and automated removal of the fleece.

Research lead and University of Adelaide deputy head Animal and Veterinary Sciences Professor Phil Hynd said researchers hope to have finalised the biological injectables work within two years.

“Much of this work will assist in obtaining Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority approval for use of the agent which is essential before we can commercialise.

“The engineering device (wool removal) prototypes should hopefully be available in that same timeframe,” he said.

Prof. Hynd said researchers hope to roll out the new system for large scale on-farm testing in 2025, if all goes well.

“It’s a big task and research does not always go to plan.”

Click here to see a video showing a fleece treated for biological defleecing.

More money will not help

Prof. Hynd confirmed that AWI is investing $1.4 million in the research’s biological phase.

“More money will not help.

“There are defined tasks that must be followed and cannot be sped up by extra people or money,” he said.

“We are trying not to raise expectations too high given the history of R&D in this space, and the complexity of the task.

“We are also very aware of the desperate need in the industry for a solution and don’t want to overpromise.”

AWI chair Jock Laurie this week said he was confident that in about in eighteen months’ time “we should have a clearer picture of what the story is” with the research. But he said there will be a need for APVMA approval and it will be up to the industry’s grower bodies to impress upon the Federal Government the importance of progressing or fast-tracking approval processes.

However, WoolProducers Australia general manager Adam Dawes said although WPA supported the defleecing research as offering a potential wool harvesting solution, APVMA registration needed to be pursued by a commercial partner.

“If there is not a commercial partner that wants to progress a registration, registration will not happen.”

A short Merino fleece harvested during early biological defleecing trial. Image – Phil Hynd.


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  1. Dirk Stevens, March 25, 2023

    Can we just make sure that the commercial partner is not a shearing machine manufacturer this time or it will no doubt suffer the same fate as Bioclip?

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