Merino breeders and processor oppose wool declaration changes

Terry Sim, January 20, 2020

NON-MULESED Merino sheep breeders and an international processor have this week come out in opposition to proposed changes to Australia’s National Wool Declaration.

The Australian Wool Exchange is seeking industry feedback to a proposal to define wool from sheep treated with freeze branding as ‘non-mulesed,’ in an alternative NM2 category on the NWD.

AWEX is also proposing that wool from non-mulesed sheep be categorised as NM1 on the NWD and wants industry feedback before by the close of business on 31 January 2020.

However, this week, Queensland Merino breeder Mark Murphy and New South Wales breeder Norm Smith released a petition opposing the AWEX proposal.

The two breeders said the industry and customers require a continued clear definition of ‘non-mulesed’ (NM) status from Australian growers.

“This is a black and white issue – we do not need to muddy the waters.”

“The industry needs to uphold the status of  AWEX “Non-Mulesed”, so that our customers know that they are getting the true “cream” – Australian “Non-Mulesed” wool,” the breeders said.

They have circulated a ‘letter of objection’ among interested growers to sign, which be forwarded to AWEX chief executive officer Mark Grave by 31 January.

Mr Murphy said he also did not support the NWD status quo, which defines wool from sheep treated with freeze branding as ‘non-mulesed.’

“I can’t think of any wool buyers, especially those buying non-mulesed wool, who thinks this is the right way to go at all.

“I know the groups like FOUR PAWS are dead against it.”

Interested growers who want no amendments to the current NM status on the NWD are being urged to email Mr Murphy on karbullah5@bigpond.com and agree to add their name and email address to the letter of objection. This will be forwarded to AWEX chief executive officer Mark Grave before 31 January 2020.

Processor also opposes a second NM category

International wool and natural fibre processor Giovanni Schneider said: “NM must remain NM in the real sense.”

“We are concerned with the confusion that NM2 will bring.

“We are in the industry and for us it’s fairly logical,” he said.

“But for our customers (retail) it will create another level of huge confusion, marketing manipulation and price confusion.

“Until scientific support is presented and the alternative methods are either accepted as NM or not, then they should be excluded,” Mr Schneider said.

“We agree there should be a new category for wools rated with intradermal injections or liquid nitrogen, but these should not be called NM2, this is really misleading.”

Mr Scheinder said the proposed AA category (previously called pain relief) on the NWD should be for those sheep that have been treated pre-operatively and post-operatively, as the abbreviation suggests.

“It’s a better pain management outcome to use both as suggested by CSIRO studies and we should encourage this practice.

“Other country origins don’t have this possibility yet so it has potential to drive demand for Australian wool and will prepare us in advance for the next phase potentially concerning tail docking and castration,” he said.

“Simply renaming the PR is not going to fool any customer.

“It might have worked some years ago when the retailers were not that informed about mulesing, but that train is passed.”

Mr Schneider said PR should remain on the NWD for TriSolfen use — or for other post-operative treatments — only.

“This should be unchanged.

“After all it is ‘pain relief’ applied after the procedure,” he said.

“Even if PR alone does not attract any premium from the market, it is still a better practice.”

Click here to read the letter of objection opposing the AWEX NM category changes.

AWEX is seeking feedback on new NWD draft version 8.0 by the close of business Friday January 31, 2020. The proposal and draft NWD v8.0 can be accessed though the AWEX website here.

Submissions must be in writing and include the name and address of the author/organisation. Emails are welcome and encouraged to ensure submissions are received by the closing date. Feedback is to be returned by COB 31 January 2020 to Mark Grave, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Wool Exchange Limited by email: mgrave@awex.com.au or by post: PO Box 651, North Ryde, NSW 1670.