SHEARING contractors will need to be more careful with sheep and stay in better communication with property owners as improved animal welfare outcomes becomes the focus.
At the Western Australian Shearing Industry Association (WASIA) annual general meeting in Perth a fortnight ago there was an important discussion on the topic of animal welfare.
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development veterinary officer David Wrighton outlined what should and shouldn’t be done when shearers stitched sheep wounds in the shearing shed.
When shearing it is possible to nick and cut the sheep, and sometimes the clippers can penetrate further, leaving gaping wounds that can cause serious harm.
Under the Code of Practice for Sheep in WA it reads “where circumstances indicate, shearing cuts should be treated to prevent infection and flystrike”.
Dr Wrighton purchased a shearers wound repair kit and demonstrated via photographic display the process of stitching a wound in the harder to see areas, where movement could tear efforts to seal off the wound and it could easily become infected without the farmer knowing.
He said any cut to a sheep, longer than five centimetres needed stitching, although it wasn’t the shearer’s decision to make.
“Especially in areas of greatest movement where it is harder for the farmer to keep track of,” Dr Wrighton said.
He warned shearers that under animal welfare guidelines, and also liability in the workplace, it was best to allow the farmer to make the tough decision regarding the future of the animal that became injured.
“It is the farmer’s responsibility to make decisions on what to do with sheep if they suffer large, deep wounds,” Dr Wrighton said.
“It is the farmer’s decision to say leave it alone or euthanise.”
Questions were raised about not doing anything to help a suffering sheep while the farmer was unable to be in attendance – but they were advised it was best to put the sheep aside and contact the owner before proceeding with any attempt to repair a large wound – even if it was losing blood.
The discussion raised some concerns among WASIA members and it was clear more discussions needed to be had around this issue.
About 60 people were part of the presentations on issues surrounding shearing businesses, such as payroll tax changes, workplace injury prevention and insurances, work safety, and the impact on the industry due to live sheep export developments.
WASIA members voted to support the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA and WAFarmers in their efforts to retain a live sheep industry for WA producers – via formal letter.
They also discussed promoting the WAFarmers Fighting Fund as an option for members to individually contribute to.
The organisation was seen as lacking the financial resources to contribute.
The flow-on effects of a phase-out to live sheep exports was highlighted in last week’s Farm Weekly, through the presentation of WAFarmers chief executive Trent Kensett-Smith at the WASIA meeting.
Mr Kensett-Smith said in the first four years of the phase-out the shearing industry would see a major shortage of shearers, but then the State’s sheep flock could drop back to eight or nine million head and create an environment where there was not enough work for the number of shearers currently in the industry.
There was also a lot of discussion around the changes to payroll tax and who should be included and excluded from the list of employees within the financial year.
RSM Australia senior manager business advisory Trent Frost said changes to the single touch payroll would be introduced in the next 12 months – and it was a big issue for small to medium sized businesses.
At the meeting WASIA president Darren Spencer was re-elected unopposed, and was rewarded by a vote to increase his honorarium by 100 per cent to $4000, which was a “small thank you” for the hours put into representing the WA industry on a State and National level.