ONE of the European premier consumers of Merino fibre is leading the way for greater transparency along the wool supply chain with its soon-to-be launched integrity code Authentico.
And the news is good for Australian growers, particularly in relation to mulesing.
Wool buyer, exporter and topmaker, family-owned G Schneider Group (GSG), which annually processes about 20 million kilograms of wool, has taken the initiative to leverage off its 96 years in the industry to create a simple and standardised code of practice.
Company co-principal Giovanni Schneider said the move was prompted by greater demand from GSG’s clients about where and how the wool they were buying was produced and handled, including traceability, sustainability, animal welfare and environmental factors.
“There are so many different protocols and processes in place, it is very complicated to give them accurate feedback,” Mr Schneider said.
“Authentico seeks to standardise this into one system and from a grower point of view we believe much of it is what growers are already doing.
“With regard to mulesing we accept this is something many farmers have to do and that it can’t be stopped overnight.
“So we are requiring that if you have to mules then do it in the best possible way and that is by using at a minimum pre-operative anaesthetic as pain relief, which you will declare as part of your registration.
“But this is also about changing industry mindset and it should be understood more and more clients are demanding unmulesed wool.
“We are asking growers to exhibit best practice at their end of the chain but we will also engage in best practise and greater transparency for our part on things such as transportation, carbon dioxide emissions, water and energy usage and chemical inputs.”
The Authentico code of practice addresses six main pillars;
p national wool declaration – the AWEX national wool declaration to be completed for all clips including mulesing status and use of pain relief;
p animal welfare – compliance to the five freedoms relating to animal welfare as outlined by the RSPCA;
p human resources and employee rights – compliance to Australian government Fair Work Commission guidelines;
p workplace health and safety – abidance with Australian State and Territory laws;
p quality assurance – use of AWEX registered woolclasser and AWEX code of practice for clip preparation;
p environmental care – opportunity to list any environmental schemes such as landcare, conservation, soil or vegetation the property is associated with.
Mr Schneider said growers could continue to sell their wool through their normal channels, either by auction or direct treaty.
The benefits of being registered with Authentico included being connected directly to the wool supply chain with the ability to build partnerships and promote individual or branded wool growing stories, exposure to more clients for increased competition and potentially better returns and greater access to information.
“For instance we have been collecting information on every bale sold for the past 20 years which gives some valuable historical data,” Mr Schneider said.
Authentico is being trialled with a group of growers in Australia and will be rolled out across the board, including to other countries such as New Zealand, Argentina and Mongolia and incorporating other natural fibres throughout the year.
North east New South Wales woolgrower and co-principal of the family owned Nerstane stud, which runs about 10,000 stud and commercial Merinos, Hamish McLaren, Woolbrook, was one of the first to join the pilot scheme.
Mr McLaren said signing off on animal welfare and other on-farm practices was valuable in being able to show those along the wool chain – like topmakers, spinners and retailers they were doing everything to run their sheep and their enterprise in the best possible manner.
“We are in this for the long term, we care for our sheep so this just makes good sense and much of it we were already doing anyway,” Mr McLaren said.
He said they trialled both pre-operative anaesthetic options, gum paste and injection last year.
“We preferred the injection but I’ve heard people needling for OJD are keener on the gum paste so as to only have one needle at the lambmarking cradle,” he said.
“When we cut ourselves or require an operation our doctors and dentists use anaesthetic on us so why wouldn’t we do the same for our sheep?
“I commend Schneider on taking the initiative on this and hope others follow suit.
“Anything that gives a point of difference has to be of benefit to us as woolgrowers in the long-term.”
Mr McLaren said wool had a great story, being such a unique fibre and totally biodegradable, not like inferior man-made products.
Mirani Pty Ltd co-principal Hugh Nivison, whose family runs 6500 Merino sheep at Walcha in northern NSW, was another applauding GSG’s initiative.
“This creates buy-in and partnerships along the chain and recognises that we as growers are doing the best by our animals, our people and our land,” Mr Nivison said.
“Wool is ethical, sustainable, renewable and green and this allows us to tell our story right through the process and hopefully builds greater cohesiveness between the various sectors.
“I am a fifth-generation woolgrower and I would hope initiatives such as this will help ensure we have another five generations of wool growing at Mirani.”