Parkdale merino farmer praises mulesing ban in New Zealand

Breeding solution: Don Mudford, of Parkdale SRS Poll Merino Stud, with the wool that world record shearer Steven Mudford shore off sheep that weren't mulesed. Photo: Taylor Jurd.
Breeding solution: Don Mudford, of Parkdale SRS Poll Merino Stud, with the wool that world record shearer Steven Mudford shore off sheep that weren't mulesed. Photo: Taylor Jurd.

A central west merino breeder has praised the efforts of the New Zealand government for moving to ban the practice of mulesing sheep and believes Australia should follow in its steps.

According to Meat and Livestock Australia, mulesing is a procedure of sheep to prevent flystrike and is performed on lambs, before three months of age.

Flystrike is a significant health and welfare risk to Australian sheep and costs NSW producers more than  $300 million annually on chemicals to treat and prevent. 

Under the New Zealand changes, the surgical removal of a sheep’s breach, tail skin folds or tail skin wrinkles will be made a criminal conviction and carry a $5000 penalty for an individual offender and $25,000 for a body corporate.

This means even a veterinarian with pain relief cannot perform the surgical procedure.  The banning of mulesing sheep in New Zealand will officially come into effect from October 1, 2018. 

Don Mudford, of Parkdale SRS Poll Merino Stud, runs 21,000 merino sheep and due to a successful breeding plan, the stud haven’t needed to mulesed lambs since 2004.

Mr Mudford believes New Zealand is on the front foot.

"We welcome New Zealand's decision to ban this barbaric practice," he said.

In Australia prohibiting of mulesing or initiating compulsory pain relief cannot be initiated on a federal level as welfare is governed by the states. 

Mr Mudford said it was achievable to breed sheep that don't need mulesing.

"I think it’s like a religion (for producers to continue mulesing), (they think) that’s the way granddad did it. But if granddad was here I think he'd be absolutely disgusted,” he said.

Mr Mudford said he doesn’t know what it will take to change farmers way of thinking, but believes industry leaders in Australia and overseas need to tell the nation’s wool growers to stop mulesing sheep.

Breeding solution to mulesing: Don Mudford of Parkdale SRS Poll Merino Stud, at his on-farm ram sale, inspects sheep that have been breed so they don't require mulesing. Photos: Taylor Jurd.

Breeding solution to mulesing: Don Mudford of Parkdale SRS Poll Merino Stud, at his on-farm ram sale, inspects sheep that have been breed so they don't require mulesing. Photos: Taylor Jurd.

“I don’t think there’s any other way. I think its sad,” he said.

“For wool growers there’s no leadership from the stud industry towards breeding merinos that don’t require mulesing when it’s clearly proven there’s no loss of wool cover and there’s better lamb survival.” 

When the Mudford’s first began their breeding plan genetics weren’t around at that time, Mr Mudford said, so they had to breed the genetics to make the process more permanent.

“Faced with the most wrinkliest mob of sheep in Australia, joined to the correct rams you wouldn’t need to mulesed those lambs. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

A NSW Farmers’ spokesperson said farmers are best placed to decide on the breech strike protection most appropriate to their circumstances and operation.

“It is vital that farmers retain their right to decide and NSW Farmers strongly oppose any government interaction to ban mulesing. We strongly encourage the use of pain relief when mulesing,” the spokesperson said.

“The wool industry is open and transparent about its practices. The National Wool Declaration allows for growers to declare their practices and the market to determine the appropriate product.”

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The National Farmers Federation were asked to respond to questions on this issue but said it was something they can’t comment on at the moment.

The Australian Wool Innovation, Meat & Livestock Australia and the CSIRO were also sent through questions, but did not respond.