THE continual suppression of results from Australian Wool Innovation¹s (AWI) mulesing clip trials ha

12 Apr, 2007 07:00 PM
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When Farm Weekly spoke exclusively to Wandering woolgrower and WAFarmers wool council president Max Watts, he declined to comment on his perception of the trial conducted on his property last year.

Mr Watts said he had entered into an agreement with AWI that prevented him from discussing the trial results on his property.

Mr Watts acknowledged that woolgrowers should receive as much information as possible on any surgical mulesing alternative, but said it was also important to effectively manage alternatives during trial and development stages.

Farm Weekly has requested on numerous occasions for AWI to give an open account of the commercial mulesing clip trial on Mr Watts¹ property and a smaller-scale trial at Murdoch University.

Participants declined to comment on all occasions and various AWI researchers and representatives said the trial results were commercially sensitive and could not be divulged.

AWI wool production general manager Ian Rogan told Farm Weekly this week he fully appreciated woolgrower apprehensions about a surgical mulesing alternative.

³I can totally understand their jumpiness,² Mr Rogan said.

³That¹s why this is one of our highest priority projects.

³But the fact is there isn¹t a commercially available alternative yet and probably won¹t be until next year.²

Mr Rogan confirmed there was an agreement between AWI blowfly control project manager Jules Dorrian and Mr Watts and admitted some results on Mr Watts¹s property might not have been ideal.

Ms Dorrian was on annual leave and unavailable to comment on the trial results.

But Mr Rogan said differing results were to be expected when conducting trials and the clip had progressed through at least one prototype since the trials in WA.

³When you¹re developing prototypes things go right and things go wrong,² he said.

³We wanted to have some control over the information that was generated in the trials.²

Mr Rogan said he did not believe woolgrowers needed to know information on prototype trials if results were unfavourable.

³We¹re still several years short of the deadline, AWI and the commercial partner will be doing more commercial broad-scale testing this year,² he said.

³I don¹t know why anyone would have any inference the product is market-ready.

³For any inference to be drawn that there¹s some sort of failure that is terminal is certainly premature and wrong.

³The product that was tested with Mr Watts has evolved already and will evolve further this year.²

Mr Rogan has been involved with clip trials since the first prototypes were being investigated two years ago.

³Yes, some prototypes did fall off and some didn¹t produce the bare area we wanted and we have to learn as we go,² he said.

³Ninety percent of the animals demonstrated some benefit in terms of bare area and they certainly demonstrated some advantage in liveweight compared to mulesed animals.

³We also have to learn about what is the optimum age to put them on.

³The time that¹s right to put clips on may be actually different to what people see as the best time for mulesing.²

Mr Rogan said it was unrealistic for woolgrowers to expect AWI to be able to put a price on the clips during developmental stages.

³Whenever we are manufacturing prototypes we are never going to be able to give an accurate answer to that,² he said.

³The ultimate manufacturing costs of millions of clips will be a decision made by the commercial partner.

³We are nowhere near the scale of production of clips that¹s going to be the final commercial scale.

³We want them to be as cheap as possible and preferably no higher in cost than current mulesing.

³It¹s stupid to be talking about dollars when no one knows on what commercial-scale manufacturing it¹s going to be.²

AWI is yet to reveal who the commercial partner could be and is currently working on a universal clip for the breech area of the lamb.

Mr Rogan said AWI expected to conduct trials on about 150,000 lambs this season and WA flocks would be part of the trial.

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