The peak woolgrowers body, WoolProducers, has again rejected the push to add another category to the National Wool Declaration form to cater for alternative methods to surgical mulesing.
The WoolProducers' board members reviewed its position on the new AM category late last week and a majority voted to stick with their opposition to the latest changes to the NWD recommended by the Australian Wool Exchange Ltd.
The NWD is a signed declaration by growers about the mulesing status as well as the dark and medullated fibre risk of their wool to exporters, processors and retailers.
The main bone of contention in AWEX's earlier draft was a plan to introduce two categories for non-mulesed wool.
AWEX proposed NM1 would cover mobs that hadn't been surgically mulesed and an alternative method to mulesing hadn't been used while a new category, NM2, would describe sheep that hadn't been mulesed but an alternative method to mulesing had been used.
After gaining little support for the move AWEX has now proposed replacing NM2 with the AM category (alternative methods) to avoid any confusion with non-mulesed wool.
WoolProducers saw the addition of NM2 and now AM categories as premature and having the potential to complicate the NWD and cause confusion in the supply chain.
It has argued the industry had spent tens of millions on seeking a replacement for mulesing (the removal of skin around the breech and/or tail with mulesing shears) so any move to require the declaration of an alternative method for permanent flystrike protection was shifting the goal posts.
The proposed changes are aimed at accommodating alternative practices to surgical mulesing, notably Sheep Freeze Branding, on the NWD.
WoolProducers' CEO, Jo Hall, said her organisation wanted AWEX to hold fire on its proposed AM category until Melbourne University had completed its pain-assessment field trials of Sheep Freeze Branding.
Sheep Freeze Branding was developed over 10 years by Victorian veterinarian, Dr John Steinfort, who has now started the early commercialisation of the breech process through a joint venture partnership, AgVet Innovations (AVI), with AWN, an independent wool broker.
Dr Steinfort said significant capital investment was required to roll out the technology as specialised cryogenics vessels and patented application equipment were required to both store, transport and apply the process using liquid nitrogen.
AVI general manager, Stuart Blair, also rejected the AWEX proposal of the introduction of a new AM category on the NWD.
He was confident many of the beneficial animal welfare and resultant production claims made about Sheep Freeze Branding would be further validated by the Melbourne University trials which hopefully would be available at the back end of this year.
"We think (adding the) AM category is moving the goal posts," he said.
He said mulesing was defined as the cutting of skin in the breech area with mulesing shears and other breech processes had always been classified as non-mulesed (NM).
"This status quo should remain. Decoupling breech processes like Sheep Freeze Branding from NM would stifle future investments in innovation and technology," he said.
Mr Blair said around 60,000 lambs and weaners had been processed with Sheep Freeze Branding last year and the company was planning to train and certify four livestock contractors to assist in the initial rolling out of the technology to their customers.
AVI has been working on an initial cost of $5 a head. Mr Blair said growers were attracted to Sheep Freeze Branding by a lack of set back to the lambs and their production gains, he said.
"Sheep Freeze Branding is the specific and targeted application of liquid nitrogen to the breech area of a lamb in conjunction with lamb marking.
"The application system has a specifically designed set of breech jaws that clamp and tent the targeted skin and then applies a one to 1.5 second application of liquid nitrogen, which, in combination with copper plates, freezes the skin quickly.
"The skin area then subsequently thaws and the lamb then is numb in that area for the length of time of the healing process," Mr Blair said.
"The result is a permanent breech wrinkle score reduction which offers protection against breech flystrike and promotes ease of crutching and shearing by creating a plainer breech."