Push for new National Wool Declaration continues to cause pain

Grower bodies still cool on plan for a revised National Wool Declaration

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BUM DECISION: The peak grower body, WoolProducers Australia, is pushing back on AWEX's attempts to revise the National Wool Declaration to include a category for alternative methods to mulesing.

BUM DECISION: The peak grower body, WoolProducers Australia, is pushing back on AWEX's attempts to revise the National Wool Declaration to include a category for alternative methods to mulesing.

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AWEX is undertaking a third round of consultation over its controversal plan to update the National Wool Declaration

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The controversial push to add another category to the National Wool Declaration form to cater for alternative methods to surgical mulesing has gone to a third round of stakeholder consultations.

But the window to lodge new submissions to the Australian Wool Exchange Ltd is tight with a closing date of next Friday (February 28).

WoolProducers Australia, one of the main critics of the proposal, won't meet until next Thursday and Friday to consider AWEX's proposed new tweeks to its revised NWD but the peak grower body's CEO, Jo Hall, said a response would be lodged in time.

Ms Hall said while she couldn't pre-empt what her board would decide, the national body had previously strongly urged AWEX to at least delay introducing a new category until independent pain assessment trials of sheep freeze branding had been concluded.

Sheep freeze branding, a technique which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and remove wrinkles from around a sheep's breech, is at the centre of the move to add a new category to the NWD.

FREEZE THE PROBLEM: Dr John Steinfort, AgVet Innovations, who developed sheep freeze branding as an alternative to surgical mulesing.

FREEZE THE PROBLEM: Dr John Steinfort, AgVet Innovations, who developed sheep freeze branding as an alternative to surgical mulesing.

AWEX's chief executive officer, Mark Grave, outlined the changes in the proposed revised NWD last week after the first draft went down like a lead balloon among some key stakeholders.

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 first draft was a move 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.

Mr Grave said AWEX had received 161 submissions from individuals, companies and representative bodies including overseas stakeholders in the second round of consultations compared with 56 in the first round.

"It was clear from the round two submissions that sectors of the market perceive and value NM as wool coming from sheep that have not been mulesed or had no alternative method (to mulesing) applied," he said.

"The proposal to use NM1 and NM2 as a potential method of reporting separate methods was thought to be unclear and had little support."

Growers who have used genetics to breed sheep that no longer needed mulesing were also concerned the new NM2 status would cause confusion and erode price premiums for non-mulesed sheep and wool.

AWEX has now proposed replacing NM2 with an AM category (alternative methods) to avoid any confusion with non-mulesed wool.

The definition of NM also makes it clear that all sheep in the mob have not been surgically mulesed and no alternative method (AM) has been used.

The AWEX board has also accepted a recommendation from its Industry Services Advisory Committee to replace the mulesing status code "PR" (pain relief) with "AA" (analgesic and/or anaesthetic), where a registered product has been used.

As well, the definition of AA is only applicable to its use at mulesing.

"We think any decision at this time is premature, we would hate to go down the path of complicating the NWD for something that is unnecessary," Ms Hall said.

"For example if the pain assessment trials for freeze branding come back unfavourably you would have to question whether people would go to the expense of using that technique if it's just as painful (as mulesing), so there would really be no need for the addition of this new category."

She said the current definition of mulesing had been in place for many years and had been endorsed by all state governments.

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 bitter ongoing controversy revolved around surgical mulesing, she said, so growers should not have to declare alternative methods, which, by definition, were not mulesing.

The story Push for new National Wool Declaration continues to cause pain first appeared on Farm Online.

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