Stop stressing sheep: Godson

30 Jun, 2004 10:00 PM
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LCA calls on farmers to put an end to poor mulesing practices

By PAUL HOOPER

MULESING has come under intense scrutiny in recent times.

Animal liberationists have labelled it barbaric while many Merino growers say it is a necessity.

Animal rights groups in Australia and overseas assert the surgical removal of wool from a Merino sheep's rear without anesthetic is cruel.

But woolgrowers believe mulesing dramatically reduces the incidence of maggot infestations and death due to flystrike in Merinos.

The debate has come to almost boiling point, as Australian research and development (R&D) organisations desperately trial alternate methods to mulesing in the face of the groups' threat to boycott Australian wool.

The WA Shearing Contractors Association workshop at the weekend provided a new angle to the controversial practice of mulesing.

NSW Livestock Contractors Association (LCA) chairman Rob Powell and LCA mulesing subcommittee chairman and mulesing contractor Gordon Godson provided an insight into on-farm practices.

After more than 70 years of practising it in Australia, some farmers and contractors were still mulesing inadequately, Mr Godson said.

The self-regulated LCA has been promoting a mulesing accreditation program in the eastern states since 1995.

Mr Godson said the increased activity of animal welfare groups could see mulesing restricted if bad on-farm practices were not addressed immediately.

"We're stressing the sheep, so let's give them the best we can," Mr Godson said.

"Some owners don't know what a good mules is.

"I feel some of the best work we have done is teaching contractors and farmers how mulesing is done properly.

"Even people who have been mulesing for 20 years still don't know how to prepare shears."

Mr Godson said speed was the biggest fault when people mulesed sheep.

He said poor practices led to a number of problems in Merinos, particularly ewes, throughout their life.

A bad mules even significantly de-valued a meat carcase at time of slaughter, Mr Godson said.

"They can save millions of dollars in the meat works industry alone by having properly mulesed sheep," he said.

WAMMCO livestock manager Peter Krupa said Merino wether carcases and skin values were frequently discounted in WA due to poor mulesing practices.

Mr Krupa said scarring from bad mulesing caused skins and tissue to tear from the rear and back legs of the carcase.

"Our production team at Katanning then invariably has to downgrade those legs from a higher order to a lesser quality order," he said.

Mr Krupa said it was not necessary for farmers to mules Merino wether lambs intended for slaughter in less than 18 months.

"Mulesing on a wether lamb is probably not necessary in this day and age," he said.

Mulesing also set back the lamb's growth rate, Mr Krupa said.

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