Uptake of lamb pain relief encouraged, but not mandated

Terry Sim, October 10, 2022

WPA CEO Jo Hall, left, and SPA CEO Bonnie Skinner, at the launch of the first Australian Sheep Sustainability Framework report at Bendigo last month.

AUSTRALIA’S peak sheep and wool bodies have urged greater awareness and uptake of pain relief for lamb castration and tail docking, but stopped short of recommending it be mandatory.

Survey results outlined in the Australian Sheep Sustainability Framework’s first On-Farm Insights Report released last week showed that 56 percent of the 2003 producers surveyed don’t use pain management for tail docking and 75pc don’t provide pain relief for castration.

WoolProducers Australia chief executive officer Jo Hall said the body has started considering the feasibility of mandatory pain relief for all lamb marking procedures.

“However, given the short length of time that these (pain relief) products have been available, it is important that firstly growers are aware that these products exist and what their appropriate application is.

“Again, the voluntary uptake of these products of producers is very encouraging,” she said.

Ms Hall said WoolProducers, with other relevant industry stakeholders, is working towards the development of extension materials and activities to help inform growers on these products and what will suit their enterprises best.

“Producers also need to be aware of market sentiments on these types of issues.”

Ms Hall said WoolProducers Australia acknowledges the importance of undertaking husbandry procedures according to best practice while continually working to reduce, refine and replace these practices in response to research, development and regulatory outcomes.

“This includes the administration of products that minimise the severity and duration of pain when undertaking mulesing, tail docking and castration.”

She said WoolProducers is also committed to:

Calling for pain relief to be made mandatory when mulesing to ensure that the procedure can be done in accordance with the highest standard of animal welfare

Supporting initiatives that encourage grower adoption of the use of pain relief products when undertaking tail docking and castration:

Investment in research, development and extension to enhance pain management strategies when undertaking painful husbandry procedures

Extension and advocacy to inform growers of consumer expectations and emerging regulatory pressures

Extension and advocacy to promote Australia’s world leading sheep husbandry practices, including the use of industry driven verification systems to demonstrate the use of pain relief products to downstream supply chain partners

Advocacy to facilitate a balanced regulatory environment (safety and trade).

Supporting the registration of new pain relief products for pain management when undertaking painful animal husbandry practices

Ms Hall said sheep producers need to be aware of what consumers are expecting in terms of animal welfare and ensure that they place themselves in a proactive space regarding market demands.

“It needs to be noted that the voluntary uptake of pain relief for castration and tail docking is extremely encouraging in the context that registered products for these procedures have only been available for a relatively short amount of time.

“As an industry we must learn from the mishandling of the mulesing issue and demonstrate the commitment to animal welfare that we have, which we can do by adhering to best practice and also by being transparent in our practices, which is what the SSF aims to do.”

Ms Hall said WoolProducers knows that our international customers and markets are increasingly demanding requirements regarding animal welfare, as evidenced through the mulesing issue and the revision of EU legislation on animal welfare.

“WoolProducers are doing everything that we can on behalf of industry to get ahead of these issues, by defending our husbandry procedures and being as transparent as possible on our unique production systems through providing submissions into these international processes, advocating for mandatory pain relief for mulesing, the Trust in Australian Wool campaign and obviously the SSF.

National extension and adoption campaign needed

Sheep Producers of Australia chief executive officer Bonnie Skinner said SPA continues to work with industry partners to ensure that suitable pain relief options are available to producers to enable them to follow best practice pain management for their animals, and to support the development of new pain relief products.

“Good animal welfare and husbandry practices are integral to the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of our industry.

“The findings highlight the importance of a national extension and adoption campaign focused on increasing awareness of the pain relief options available and their correct application during husbandry procedures, something that SPA has been advocating for funding by service providers for several years,” Ms Skinner said.

“Demonstration of sustainable production of sheep meat and wool is critical to secure access to local and global markets – customers and consumers want to feel confident that the food and fibre they purchase has been responsibly produced.

“Positive perceptions of the sheep industry are driven through community confidence that the industry is continuously striving towards improved animal welfare,” she said.

“The Sheep Sustainability Framework enables the Australian sheep and wool industry to understand where industry sits on a number of sustainability indicators including animal welfare, and to identify areas where advancement is required.”


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