Lamb Production

Superfine wool leader backs growers’ rights and new AWI board

Terry Sim, December 13, 2019

ASWGA national president Danny Picker.

AUSTRALIAN superfine wool grower leader Danny Picker has renewed support for Merino flock owners to decide individual best practice animal welfare for their flocks, even above the demands of the market.

In a media release yesterday, he also called for the industry to promote its “positive” stories to the world and to support the new Australian Wool Innovation board.

Mr Picker is national president of the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association and a member of Australian Wool Innovation’s Wool Industry Consultative Panel.

Many ASWGA members market their wool primarily to European brands and processors who are now mostly moving to using only wool from non-mulesed sheep.

The ASWGA release comes as processors call for increased non-mulesed wool production and peak grower body WoolProducers Australia seeks to mandate pain relief for mulesing, which has also been proposed in New South Wales legislation and in changes to animal cruelty regulations in Victoria.

In the release, Mr Picker claims that “ASWGA is the only
organisation in Australia that always focuses on their customers’ needs and keeps close contact with industry leaders throughout the pipeline, maintaining a great reputation, and leading the Australian wool industry in animal welfare practices.”

He said the association’s goal “is to positively promote best animal welfare practices for each individual farmer’s flock and their environment, and support grower’s rights to decide best practice in relation to animal welfare on their own farm, in an open, honest and transparent fashion.”

However, Mr Picker said this meant supporting growers’ rights to decide how their sheep would be treated, even over and above the animal welfare requirements of markets.

“It’s a large consuming world and some growers cannot produce to the world’s requirements.

“We’ve got to respect growers’ rights.”

He said growers’ rights on animal welfare have been “pushed” by retailers and consumers, and it is up to the individual growers to decide how they run their flocks, including whether they don’t mules, or mules with pain relief, or not.

“It is up to each individual farmers to do what he wants to do.”

Mr Picker conceded there was a risk that customers ultimately might not buy wool from growers choosing animal welfare practices they did not appreciate.

“That’s true.”

But Mr Picker said this was “definitely” a risk worth taking.

“Because each and every grower has the right to decide to do what he wants to do on his own farm.”

When asked if he thought this right extended beyond what might be seen as being in the best welfare interests of sheep, Mr Picker said he believed that “every farmer is doing the best they can possibly do for animal welfare.”

Mr Picker said 60 percent of ASWGA members have declared in surveys that they do not mules their sheep and “all use pain relief.”

“They are monitored by our surveys.”

“They’ve acted with the welfare for their animals in their own environments.”

But Mr Picker said ASWGA still had a “few members” who mules and who have not declared whether they use pain relief, with industry best practice yet to be defined by the industry or regulated.

He supported all growers declaring the welfare status of their clips on the National Wool Declaration, but didn’t believe there was a need for the industry to form a best practice policy, or industry strategy, on pain relief.

“I think that is out of the question, I think we need to start talking about the future – I think we spend too much time in the negativity.

“The world market is going to decide who will buy the wool and what wool they want to buy.”

No ASWGA support for mandating pain relief

Mr Picker said he didn’t oppose pain relief for mulesing, but he would not support mandating the practice.

“I do support pain relief, but we cannot mandate it.

“A mandatory decision (on pain relief) can only be put into position by government policy.”

He would not answer when asked if it was preferable for the Australian industry’s sheep welfare reputation if all growers committed to implement pain relief for mulesing.

‘Negative’ media affecting farmer’s incomes – Picker

Mr Picker today also called for more “positive media” coverage of the industry.

“Negativity in the media and on social media platforms ultimately hurts all wool growers and affects farmers’ incomes at sale.

“Instead of focusing negatively on issues such as animal welfare, we need to promote the positives for our animals in the long term,” he said in the release.

“Australian wool growers are dedicated and compassionate and we should be proud to tell our positive stories to the world.

“Best practice, support for industry leaders and positive media towards our industry will ensure a prosperous future for all wool growers in Australia.”

Mr Picker said recently negative stories, many aimed at Australian Wool Innovation, have surfaced on social media and in the press.

“Such negativity is detrimental to the Australian wool industry as a whole.

“As an association we have assisted AWI as part of their working group, in implementing the recommendations following the review of the wool industry, and it is our responsibility to support the newly-elected board going forward,” he said.

“Best practice, support for industry leaders and positive media towards our industry will ensure a prosperous future for all wool growers in Australia.

Mr Picker concluded his release with a call for all superfine wool growers to join ASWGA for the benefit of the Australian wool industry.

Click here to read the full ASWGA media release.


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  1. Elizabeth Morrissey, August 13, 2023

    Mulesing has saved countless sheep lives. Flystrike is a horrible way for a sheep to die. That is the reason mulesing was taken up initially. Maybe someone should look at the history of why mulesing became popular. Yes, it has always looked horrible. But a day later, the lamb is OK and then has reduced risk of flystrike for the rest of its life. We vaccinate children for polio, tetanus and whooping cough. The needle hurts and there is temporary soreness, but then they have immunity. The same applies to the Merino sheep when it is mulesed as a lamb; it acquires an improved immunity from flystrike for the rest of its life.

  2. Donald Cameron, December 14, 2019

    This disappointingly tepid media statement does little to lead the wool industry into smoother waters. ASWGA should be ashamed that AWI has still not implemented all EY recommendations.

    Burying one’s head in the sand and hoping only for positive media coverage is an absurd position.

    However, there is no doubt (as this ASWGA media release correctly states) that the wool buyers reflect market trends, and inter alia what animal welfare practices are acceptable, and what are not.

  3. Tom Gardner, December 14, 2019

    Does this guy have any idea? Of course industry can effectively mandate pain relief for mulesing; make it a condition of sale through the National Wool Declaration. Why wait for government to control your destiny? Show the consumer you care for your sheep so pain relief is mandated. It’s a no-brainer.
    The fact that this guy is in such a leadership role, it’s scary. And how about asking for more positive media? Everything is everybody else’s fault. Fifteen years ago, the industry agreed to cease mulesing by 2010, but then did nothing to help producers transition. The stud breeders, like this supposed leader, are the reason. They could have led by providing a genetic path, but instead they whipped up producers fears and continued to focus on the self interest of selling their own rams. Perhaps those of us who have ceased mulesing should join this ASWGA and end the reign of the likes of Mr Picker, but I don’t know if I have the right tweed jacket?

  4. Peter Small, December 14, 2019

    Mr Picker, in his position, must surely know that is not as we the wool growers wish our animal husbandry practices to be understood, but the perception of the world’s consumers. The evidence is that our failure to understand this basic truth of the market is resulting in loss of market share to our wool fibre. This is something I would have thought would have been of concern to Mr Picker’s members.

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