Lamb Production

Superfine wool growers adopt policy encouraging an end to mulesing

Sheep Central August 23, 2017

AUSTRALIA’S superfine wool growers have adopted a policy encouraging the ultimate removal of the need for mulesing.

At its 2017 annual general meeting on August 11, the Australian Superfine Woolgrowers Association adopted a policy to encourage its members to always follow best practice in matters of animal welfare, with the ultimate aim of removing the need for mulesing.

The policy also included that ASWGA is a signatory to the Dumfries House Declaration and its members are adherents to the IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare.

Click here to get the latest Sheep Central story links sent to your email inbox.

A media release from new ASWGA president Danny Picker said a large number of members already abided by this policy.

“We encourage all our members to abide by this policy.”

Mr Picker said more than half of ASWGA members no longer mules their sheep or never did.

“Of those that do still mules, nearly all, if not all, use pain relief.”

The policy also included that ASWGA members raise their animals under a lot of different climatic conditions around Australia and decide their own animal husbandry procedures.

Mr Picker said most ASWGA members use the voluntary National Wool Declaration to provide evidence of their mules status for wool clients around the world.

“ASWGA recognises the growing demand for ethically produced superfine wool, in particular, the evidence of orders specifying unmulesed wool.

“The Association’s policy is to ensure super fine growers are made aware of all market opportunities for their wool,” he said.

“We support growers in how they meet these opportunities by providing weekly updates on all news that comes to light throughout the industry.

“I as president and Simon Cameron (past president) have offered to work with Australian Wool Innovation and Geoff Lindon, AWI’s sheep and welfare advocacy manager, to produce case studies for people to use to assist in transitioning from mulesing,” he said.

“Personally, I am available for any grower to discuss my transition.”

Mr Picker said the superfine industry is the flagship of the wool industry.

“To be a superfine wool grower one has to be very passionate about their sheep and wool production, and have very high ethical and welfare standards, as do all Australian wool growers.

“Our superfine growers are among the leaders in these practices,” he said.


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. barbara Hyatt, August 28, 2017

    Simon, I don’t for one minute think we should let sheep suffer. In fact, just the opposite, and I am not talking about chemicals as an alternative. That would be just as useless as topical pain relief. Many producers have moved to plain -bodied sheep that do not require mulesing and this is obviously the future. Not only is it better for the sheep, but the wool is superior. A lot of things have been done in ignorance, like putting wrinkles in Merinos to get a bit more wool without thinking through the other implications. Now that we know that those wrinkles bring with them a lot more problems than the extra wool is worth, can’t we admit our mistake and correct it? Or are we going to watch what was the premier industry in this country become a very poor relative to the countries that are listening to their consumers like South Africa and Argentina?

  2. Simon Gatenby, August 27, 2017

    As an industry we should get Sir David Attenborough to do a documentary on the sheep in Australia; from birth, feeding, wool, pests, diseases, markets, etc. The wool consumer will then understand what it takes to manage sheep and more than likely leave us to looking after our sheep as best we can.

  3. Michael Craig, August 25, 2017

    This whole debate gets a bit emotional, doesn’t it? It’s prevented industry really thinking through a long term strategy to deal with risk, both the animal welfare risk of fly strike and the consumer perception risk. Tied in with a very traditional culture and low aversion to change, it’s a tough issue, and the solution tends to be “don’t talk about the war”.
    As someone who has ceased mulesing now 10 years, I have found the decision to actually be a positive for our business and the 88,000 sheep that have been over our lamb marking cradles. Individually breech scoring every lamb pushed us to create business systems which tracked our animals, which in turn helped us move from averaging of mobs to identifying individual animal production and that’s where our ability to select for profit is. In our situation, we have experienced no negative welfare outcomes, but the key is good planning and management to ensure we have a healthy, resilient animal. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why farmers mules, but we need to think long term about our consumer and that our systems can change and there might just be some positives we can’t see on the face of it.
    As far as I see it, there is no silver bullet in the pipeline and the genetic path, with good management, is the long term path. So how about a hybrid model, breech score animals and mules what is required, with pain relief of course? Is there a way forward that doesn’t have to be so polarising?

  4. Simon Gatenby, August 25, 2017

    Barbara, you have obviously managed a sheep flock through a fly wave, have you? As you would or should understand, the impact of a mass fly strike due to rain and heat is unrelenting for the sheep struck, usually resulting in death if untreated. Preventative chemicals only work for so long and resistance will grow rapidly with more and more chemical use, to the point we have little protection against fly strike. It shudders me to think how many sheep would have died during the wet 2016 had it not been for mulesing. Lifelong protection Barbara.
    As a wool grower I don’t like doing it, but there is no viable effective alternative. Australia has flies.
    You might get away with not mulesing for a year or two if it’s really dry, but in a wet year you’ll learn from the number you lose to flies. Mulesing is usually done at lamb marking, when the lamb normally has its tail docked. The pain from docking would dwarf that from the bit of skin being taken off. So really there should be no discount for mulesed wool based on pain, as 99.9pc would tail dock at lamb marking. Farmers should never be forced into poorer animal husbandry practices because you don’t like the look of blood and don’t want to understand why. Every vet would be out of business under your watch.

  5. barbara Hyatt, August 24, 2017

    Because Chick there is a net benefit to the recipient. I don’t think the sheep gets much out of it’s arse being sliced off, but the child would be saved. You are going to try to sell this anyway you can Chick, but people are no longer buying into the lie that this is good practice no matter how you dress it up. This is a shocking practice that is now killing our lamb meat industry and our international reputation and it needs to stop.

  6. chick olsson, August 23, 2017

    Why ban such a brilliant operation? Are we going to ban children’s heart operations because it looks bad? Or stop immunising children because it hurts them?? It’s time the industry grew up and defended their excellent practices.

Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -