WOOLGROWERS have been warned that retailers are still questioning Australia's animal welfare standards as the 2010 mulesing deadline approaches.
Government agencies and wool industry bodies reiterated the warning to growers last week as the January 1, 2010 deadline snaps at the heels of the local wool industry.
Despite a proactive approach to surgical mulesing practices, Australia only recently formalised a surgical training guideline and mulesing regulatory legislation is still being drawn up.
Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) maintains it is on-track to deliver various mulesing alternatives before the deadline while the Agriculture Department and CSIRO work towards genetic alternatives.
The National Mulesing Accreditation Program (NMAP) committee has hit the ground running and expects to have 600 contractors and growers accredited by the end of this year.
As part of the strategic plan to meet the 2010 deadline, mulesing contractors are required to be accredited by December 31 this year, and producers by December 31, 2008.
NMAP committee chief executive officer Charles De Fegely said the committee would have no overriding power over mulesing regulation despite playing a major role in training people in the industry.
"The regulatory side could be managed by state governments but how people will get caught and what would happen to them has not even been determined," Mr De Fegely said.
He said the NMAP committee had been busy organising accreditation for people and hoped their proactive approach - rather than worrying about how to police the ban would be more accepted.
"At the same time, industry has really worked hard on the alternatives, so mulesing might even stop earlier," Mr De Fegely said.
"The mulesing course is excellent and it has really improved animal management."
Despite the industry¹s progress, no state government in Australia has established legislation to police or enforce mulesing standards.
Mr De Fegely said if the states adopted some sort of mulesing legislation it could be similar to legislation tailored for dogs¹ tail-docking.
It would probably be left to veterinary and RSPCA staff to police the legislation and report any breeches.
Agriculture Department veterinary officer Di Evans said given the climate the animal welfare groups had created, it was time mulesing standards and documents were brought up to scratch.
Kondinin Group has compiled a thorough mulesing owner-operator manual largely accepted by the industry.
AWI has provided financial support to the NMAP committee and played a significant role in modifying Kondinin Group's manual for owner-operators.
According to AWI blowfly control program manager Jules Dorrian, AWI has asked Kondinin Group to print the modified version of the manual as part of the NMAP.
The training manual has been largely accepted as a best-practice document in the industry.
It has taken the industry a long time to establish a manual but it does signal to animal welfare groups that Australia has recognised problems associated with surgical mulesing.
Ms Dorrian said it was still critical that the NMAP was supported, even though industry was working towards non-surgical mulesing alternatives.
"We are not backing surgical mulesing per se," she said.
"The best process currently for woolgrowers to diminish the likelihood of flystrike is surgical mulesing, so we want to make sure everyone out there is doing it correctly."
Woolgrowers can obtain a copy of the manual through Kondinin Group.
By filling out a questionnaire they can obtain a level-one in mulesing accreditation.
The Australian Wool Growers Association (AWGA) said it no longer had a vested financial interest in the mulesing pain relief Tri Solfen.
AWGA chairman Martin Oppenheimer confirmed to Farm Weekly that former AWGA chairman Charles Olsson provided financial backing for Tri Solfen during the research and development phase of the product.
Mr Oppenheimer said as far as he was aware, no AWGA members had financial interests in Tri Solfen after chemical giant Bayer took on production of the product this month.
AWGA was criticised last year for breaking away from the mulesing industry taskforce and attempting to broker a separate deal with animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) regarding mulesing issues in Australia.
Mr Oppenheimer said AWGA felt a direct liaison with PETA would help dispel common myths the general public held about surgical mulesing in Australia. He said the whole industry had since come a long way in proving its commitment to preventing flystrike humanely.