New laws introduced in Victoria will require primary producers to administer a registered pain-relieving product when mulesing sheep.
The new provisions, which came into effect on July 1, will ensure better animal welfare outcomes for livestock and enhance the reputation of the state's sheep industry, Agriculture Victoria says.
"Sheep producers are encouraged to seek advice from a veterinarian or animal health consultant regarding available treatment options for their own situation," Agriculture Victoria program manager livestock welfare compliance Rachael Holmes said.
According to the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep, mulesing is the removal of skin from the breech and/or tail of a sheep using mulesing shears.
Only products registered for use on sheep by the Australia Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority will be permitted. The rules were introduced as part of Victoria's crackdown on animal welfare.
Ms Holmes said mulesing should only be undertaken as part of an integrated approach to flystrike management in accordance with crutching and shearing, good worm control and strategic use of chemicals.
"Full records of any pain relief products used must be kept," Ms Holmes said.
"Details should include the product trade name, species/location of animals, identification numbers/description, the date the treatment has been applied and the dose rate used."
VFF backs move
Victorian Farmers Federation livestock council president Leonard Vallance described the new requirement as a "no-brainer" but said more research was required about ways to mitigate flystrike.
"Over 90 per cent of the industry uses pain relief when mulesing," Mr Vallance said.
"It means the industry is progressing, albeit at a very slow rate, but of course there's still people who are mulesing and that's their choice.
"Some people believe we should rely on chemical control for flies but to rely on one chemical solution is not that wise because resistance builds so what the industry requires is alternate treatments and better genetics to reduce the need for mulesing."
From July 1, infringement notices and fines can be issued to anyone mulesing a sheep without providing pain relief.
Better promotion needed: wool buyer
One of Australia's largest buyers of Australian wool, Endeavour Wool Exports, believes the industry needs to do more to promote its non-mulesed clip.
Managing director Josh Lamb said Australian woolgrowers were "losing business" to countries including South Africa and New Zealand who could often supply larger volumes of non-mulesed wool.
"Mulesed wool will always exist, particularly in Australia, with climate conditions being so varied in different parts of the country," Mr Lamb said.
"What the industry needs to do is to build up the story around the non-mulesed wool portion of the Australian wool clip which is steadily growing.
"Australia can't offer enough of the quantity or type that customers overseas are looking for and the negative attitude that the Australian wool industry has put out about non-mulesed wool to the world has hasn't helped."
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