ANESTHESIA and analgesia have new meaning for Australian woolgrowers.
Mulesing with anesthetic pre, and analgesics post, are rated favourably with European and Chinese wool industry fashion houses and processors, according to Australian Wool Innovation chair, Colette Garnsey.
Visiting the 21st Central Western zone Merino ewe competition last Thursday Ms Garnsey spelt out AWI's position.
"We have been trying to promote the AAs through the National Wool Declaration (NWD),"she said.
"AWI is not here to pick winners on mulesing or non-mulesing.
AWI is not here to pick winners on mulesing or non-mulesing
"We are here to support woolgrowers to make the best choices for their animals.
"We have invested a lot of money ($44 million since 2000) in finding mulesing alternatives and there is no silver bullet."
Ms Garnsey addressed some 40 Merino breeders and enthusiasts at The Watt family's Allambie flock, Alectown, which was the Parkes competition runner-up and third placing in the Central Western final, and was also the special guest speaker at the CW Zone anniversary dinner that evening in Parkes.
"The non-mulesing push is coming from the Europeans and driven by two (fashion) houses who are really trying to avoid having to deal with animal activists who are camping on their doorsteps," she said.
"What does work is when we explain the story, which we do annually to all those houses, that mulesing is once in an animal's life.
"Just once. It doesn't happen every year. It also enables wool production in Australia to continue to produce wool of the quality that is required by the world's garment manufacturers."
Ms Garnsey said as more and more wool producers adopt the use of anesthesia and analgesia and record that on the NWD, the practice would be better understood.
"This does enable the animal to be properly looked after in its animal welfare practice, and enables the animal to recover quickly." she said.
"And that's what the manufacturing and processing industries are really interested in - animal welfare, and AWI is doing a lot of this work in the background."
Ms Garnsey explained AWI was not a political body.
"It is actually strictly prohibited in the constitution for us to get into any type of politics," she said.
"What we can do is continue to do research and continue to advocate into those markets and along the supply chain for best practice animal husbandry.
"And that is the work we are doing."
She assured the gathering that AWI was there for all wool growers.
"We are there to help support the flock in Australia to come back to good numbers and then continue to grow.
"Our buyers like dealing with Australians and they like the quality of our product.
"So we need to deal with the hygiene factor around good animal husbandry."
AWI is not going to pick a winner, Ms Garnsey said.
"And will not come out and declare for one side.
"We are here to support all wool growers and that's very much of what AWI is doing."
Speak out to retain mulesing
MULESING or not continues to be debated whenever Merino breeders get together.
It's a subject that boils the blood in some cases, and in others just pure frustration that an animal welfare issue has attracted so much negative media publicity in Australia, and possibly the world.
At just about every Merino maiden ewe competition in the state so far this year, mulesing has been discussed while on-property visits.
Pro-non-mulesing protagonists, from breeders to manufacturers have been vocal for the past several years, but it is possible the silent majority are about to get even louder.
Merino ewe competitions representative on the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) Wool Industry Consultative Panel (WICP), Tom Kirk, a sheep classer and Bundemar studmaster, Baldry, (recently moved from Condobolin), says if sheep breeders and wool growers want to retain mulesing, they need to give their opinion and feedback to AWI.
"There has been and there still is a big push at policy level for mandatory pain relief at mulesing," he said at competition discussions when the issues were brought up.
"But then the next step could be banning mulesing altogether."
"If you want to protect mulesing, then you'll need to be vocal about it.
"Otherwise, the decisions could possibly be made at government level without your input.
"We need to be proud of our flock management best practice procedures, buyt need to sell our message in a more positive way."
Mr Kirk said nobody wanted regulation, but the industry was demanding traceability and a quality assurance scheme that rewards best practice.
"Ewe competitions are about opening the farm gates to discuss and display best practices in sheep management across the board, and that includes breeding, feeding, welfare and marketing."
World Federation of Merino Breeders president, Will Roberts, Victoria Downs, Morven, Queensland, just wants people to shut up and get on with their responsible animal husbandry welfare practices.
"The only people who talk loudly about mulesing are those who don't want to mules," Mr Roberts said.
"Just let those who want to do husbandry practices a little bit different to other people get on with it.
"Those who do not want to mules, don't mules if that's what you want to do.
"But just shut up about it because it's a road to nowhere and I don't believe that it's customers who are actually driving this."
Mr Roberts said her had never known anyone who buys a jumper, skirt or clothing to ask if the article is from a sheep that was mulesed or not mulesed.
"I've never been in a butcher shop where people have asked for chops off non-mulesed sheep.
"But some people are telling us our customers overseas are screaming out for non-mulesed wool.
"From my point of view the ones who are doing this are the manufacturers who are trying to align themselves into a position of strength for their corporate responsibility."
Tom Kirk said the NWD needed to be fully completed declaring anesthetic and/or analgesic use by woolgrowers who mules.
"The Australian Wool Exchange says 30 to 40 percent of growers are not filling-in the form stating mulesing with pain relief, so that is not helping your cause either" he said
"It's best for all in the industry to complete the NWD."