IF farmers stopped mulesing tomorrow, their costs could increase up to $2.50/head, according to Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) director Kevin Bell.
Mr Bell told Sheep Updates last week that if a suitable alternative was not available when mulesing ceased, it would have a major effect on shearing and crutching, dag and stain, labour and chemical usage.
³A major problem forecast is the availability of labour for crutching, and possibly shearing, due to the labourious nature of crutching unmulesed sheep,² he said.
³This will be regardless of price.²
Mr Bell said crutching unmulesed sheep would increase the cost by about 90c to $1 per animal, depending on the degree of breech wrinkle and dags.
Shearing costs would also rise, but not as much as crutching, and dag and stain would increase and cause big problems depending on the season.
³The extent of the dag and stain problem will be determined by a combination of the management program, season and climate,² Mr Bell said.
³From the aspect of wool clip contamination, the stain perse is unlikely to be an issue providing stain-free procedures are followed, that is to crutch within three months prior to shearing,² he said.
Farmers would become more reliant on chemicals without mulesing and more labour would be needed for chemical applications.
Chemical resistance was a risk that could develop.
³Though we have gone 25 years so far without resistance being detected to cyromazine, increased use may shorten the effective life of any products used,² Mr Bell said.
³If protection periods are reduced, these may result in a major increase in labour requirements.
³Increased chemical use will also increase the chance of unacceptable wool residues.²
Mr Bell said a genetic approach was needed to devise a long-term solution.
But the widespread practice of mulesing was delaying attempts to find such a solution.
³To make this possible (genetic research), it will be necessary to cease mulesing immediately in a range of flocks of recognised genetic superiority to enable selection of superior genotypes within these flocks,² Mr Bell said.
³Mulesing currently impedes this by masking sheep of both desirable and undesirable genotype.²