The NSW Farmers Association has backed proposed changes to the National Wool Declaration (NWD) and put itself out of step with WoolProducers Australia, the peak grower body.
The two key farm organisations now disagree on moves by the Australian Wool Exchange to add a new category on the NWD for sheep treated with an alternative to surgical mulesing methods including Sheep Freeze Branding.
WoolProducers wants a decision on the new category (AM) delayed until at least pain-assessment trials of Sheep Freeze Branding by the University of Melbourne are finished.
And Dr John Steinfort, the developer of the Sheep Freezing Branding process, which uses liquid nitrogen to modify a sheep's breech for flystrike protection, is also opposed to the push for the new AM category.
NSW Farmers wool committee chairman Andrew Wood said the aim of the NWD was to promote transparency across the wool supply chain.
"This change will certainly boost transparency," Mr Wood said.
"It will demonstrate to customers that the wool industry is serious about investing in mulesing alternatives and give customers a clearer idea of what wool they are purchasing.
"Customers will be able to make purchasing decisions based on their desired mulesing status.
"They may want wool from a sheep genetically breed to be non-mulesed or from one that has had some form of breach modification.
"The purchasing behaviours of buyers will then shape on-farm practices as producers try to meet the markets demands."
Mr Wood said NSW Farmers also wanted the NWD made a condition of sale for all wool sales.
"We have also requested that the 'pain relief' mulesing mob status be renamed analgesic/anaesthetic (AA)."
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 of a new NWD 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 then proposed NM2 be replaced with with the AM category (alternative methods) to avoid any confusion with non-mulesed wool.
WoolProducers saw the addition of NM2 and now AM category 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 was shifting the goal posts.
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.
AVI general manager Stuart Blair said he was confident many of the beneficial animal welfare and resultant production claims made about Sheep Freeze Branding would be further validated by the trials.
"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.
The story Key farm bodies now out of step on changes to National Wool Declaration first appeared on Farm Online.