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Flow Probe: Mulesing under the spotlight

The practise of mulesing is a controversial topic for sheep producers and animal welfare lobbyists across the country.

For laymen, mulesing is a process undertaken by some sheep producers which involves the removal of wool-bearing skin from around the tail region.

Many producers say the practice provides several, important benefits for their herd, including preventing the onset of flystrike infections.

Speaking on Flow News 24, Chris Prime stated that a decision was made in 2008 that mulesing would no longer occur on his farming property.

"It goes back a while, 2008 we stopped mulesing - we had a planned deadline of stopping mulesing by end of 2010," Chris said.
"We basically stopped then, although we mulesed a few that the first year of 2008, pretty much we haven't done anything since. We just changed a couple of little management things throughout the year but really haven't had any troubles at all."

Parasitic infections are the main reason shearers engage in mulesing sheep and Prime acknowledged the unpleasant nature of attending to flyblown sheep but was staunch in his belief that mulesing does not guarantee safeguards with sheep and parasites.

"We had to change a couple of practices...as far as flies go, the past four or five years we probably had as much flystrike, if not more in our mulesed sheep than we did in our unmulesed sheep."
"When you mules, you keep those sheep that have got a bit more skin down the legs and they catch the moisture and get struck."

Prime also spoke of stigmas he has faced as a producer when shopping sheep that are unmulesed.

"The stigma that goes with not being mulesed...people walk past these non-mulesed sheep and go 'oh, you can't stop mulesing.'

Prime said he estimates he loses around $30 per every sheep that isn't mulesed compared with competitors who engage in the practice.

It comes as South Australian wool producer, Andrew Michael, calls for better transparency implemented and for producers to be able to declare the mulesing of sheep and lambs on the National Vendor Declaration.

Michael has since been met by internal resistance from within the sheep farming industry.

“I can’t work out where the pushback is coming from.”
“They want to be in a position where they are not going to lose market share because of a lack of industry transparency and traceability, driven by the industry.”