Producers push for NWD to be more transparent

National Wool Declaration 'lacks transparency'

Wool
Henry Goode with Ned the Kelpie, who along with father Deane, has phased out mulesing in the last 13 years on their Wangolina, SA, property.

Henry Goode with Ned the Kelpie, who along with father Deane, has phased out mulesing in the last 13 years on their Wangolina, SA, property.

Aa

There are fresh calls to review the National Wool Declaration as producers criticise the move to include nitrogen skin surgery in the non-mulesed section.

Aa

There are fresh calls to review the National Wool Declaration as producers criticise the move to include nitrogen skin surgery in the non-mulesed section.

In March this year, Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) unveiled an updated NWD, which took into consideration recommendations from a review conducted last year.

As part of the review, AWEX proposed that the current mulesing status of non-mulesed be replaced with two categories - non-mulesed or non-mulesed yet an alternative method has been used (for example nitrogen skin surgery).

AWEX chief executive Mark Grave said the board recognised the potential consequences of making a decision without the benefit of independent, clear and concise scientific analysis of the use of liquid nitrogen or any new innovation that may be introduced.

For this reason, it was agreed that the non-mulesed category would not be updated, and instead AWEX would monitor the results of scheduled trials into the use of other methods to mulesing, and would review the NWD again 10 months from now.

But there's frustration among Australian sheep producers that there's further delays to updating the form they use to declare the animal welfare practices on their farms.

Tim Leeming runs a self-replacing composite flock breeding prime lambs in Pigeon Ponds, Vic, and said while wool only accounted for 5 per cent of his business, he thought the lack of transparency when it came to mulesing was hurting the sheep industry as a whole.

"I get frustrated with the excuses of some members of the Australian sheep industry as far as moving forward or working towards a non breech modified flock," Mr Leeming said.

"I'm a prime lamb producer, but the sheep industry is the sheep industry and I'm worried that we're trying to market a high value meat product and we're being jeopardised by some in the industry that are not wanting to be fully transparent."

He said the NWD's inability to separate non-mulesed from non-mulesed yet using an alternative method was hurting those that were trying to do the right thing.

"It means the people that have put in a lot of hard work and effort to move away from mulesing - the modern Merino breeders - aren't being rewarded for their efforts," he said.

"They've been using Australian Sheep Breeding Values and genetics and it might have taken them 10 or 15 years to breed sheep that don't need breech modification.

"Yet then when it comes to declaring their wool, you've got people who haven't done anything about it and you can't distinguish between them.

"The people that have done the hard work deserve the better market access."

He said no matter the method, if you were modifying the breech of an animal, that should be declared.

"If you're using cold ice, technically you're not mulesing, but you're still using a method to burn the skin off a sheep's breech and I don't care what people think but that's going to hurt," he said.

"If you are modifying the breech, there should be another box there that you can tick."

Mr Leeming said the Australian sheep industry needed to be in a position where it could video every single process involved in breeding and be able to confidently share that with the world.

"You should be able to play that in a cafe in Brunswick and people can look at the sheep and know that they are healthy and happy," he said.

"When there's no transparency, it doesn't matter if you're selling wool or meat, it hurts the industry."

READ MORE:

Across the border into SA, Wangolina wool growers, father and son duo Deane and Henry Goode haven't mulesed for 13 years.

Currently running about 7000 adult ewes, Henry Goode said they made the decision all of those years ago to breed a plain-bodied Merino with little wrinkle, who was easy care and didn't rely on chemicals.

"You get better early growth and whiter, brighter wool, and in addition to that you get higher eye muscle and fat muscle levels," he said.

He said while those were the main traits they were chasing, what came with the new direction was no more need to mules their sheep.

"While it wasn't something that we were specifically trying to achieve, we did feel that mulesing was unnecessary," he said.

"The consumer is really starting to demand better ethically-treated animals and they want to know the story of how the animals were raised and looked after."

He believed the NWD had a cloud hanging above it at the moment.

"They're allowing [nitrogen skin surgery] to be included as non-mulesed so that puts a damper on the people who've spent the time to breed [out the need to mules] naturally," he said.

"For that to be put under the same banner is a blow to those that have stuck to doing the right thing."

He said what worked in the favour of non-mulesed operations were quality assurance schemes like Authentico.

"There are a lot of different perceptions around farming and people have their own perceived idea of farming, so we just enjoy telling people our story and we get a kick out of seeing a garment in the shop that we know has come from our farm," he said.

The story Producers push for NWD to be more transparent first appeared on Farm Online.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by