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Beyond the Bale : September 2018
48 ON FARM Woolgrowers, researchers, consultants, commercial providers, vets and animal welfare advocacy groups discussed the latest developments and trial results from AWI’s flystrike prevention program at the 2018 Breech Flystrike Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) Technical Update held in July in Sydney. Introduced by AWI Program Manager for Sheep Health & Welfare, Bridget Peachey, the forum was told that protecting the national flock from flystrike remains the top research priority at AWI. Since 2005, more than $30 million has been invested by AWI on measures to combat flystrike as part of a greater long- term investment of more than $60 million in animal health and welfare measures. Fifteen speakers presented the latest technical information on completed and current projects, addressing sheep breeding and selection, breech modification alternatives, improved management practices, wool industry training and engagement and supply chain engagement. Significant and incremental progress is being reported in most areas. “This, the sixth Breech Flystrike RD&E Technical Update since 2008, was another good opportunity to enable researchers to share ideas on the future direction of their studies, while hearing from the welfare groups and woolgrowers about their needs and expectations of the AWI breech flystrike program,” said AWI Animal Welfare Advocacy Manager Geoff Lindon said. INDUSTRY OVERVIEW Supply chain engagement AWI’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs & International Market Access, Peta Slack-Smith reported how she leads an annual delegation (including an Australian woolgrower and a researcher) to the northern hemisphere, where the delegation informs key brands, retailers, retail associations, welfare groups and NGOs about Australian wool and the high standard of on-farm animal welfare practices. Ms Slack-Smith, who has led these delegations since 2009, said global apparel businesses are increasingly focused on sustainability and traceability, including animal welfare. The feedback from northern hemisphere markets is that consumers’ and brands’/retailers’ perception of wool is changing significantly for the better, with the result that demand for the fibre is growing. However, she said these businesses have a very high awareness and understanding of AWEX’s National Wool Declaration (NWD) and they monitor the NWD monthly and annual figures to see trends. Universally they want woolgrowers to increase use of the NWD. AWEX National Wool Declaration (NWD) Dr Kerry Hansford from AWEX gave a presentation on the trends and latest figures on NWD usage. Australian wool sold through auction declared through the NWD continues to increase; it was 66% in 2017, up from 61% in 2016. The declaration by woolgrowers of their use of Pain Relief (PR) for mulesing is also increasing through the NWD, as is the proportion of Non Mulesed (NM) declarations. The results also show increasing premiums for Non Mulesed (NM) declared wool, on-going but modest premiums for Pain Relief (PR) declared wool, and small discounts for wool that is Not Declared (ND) - see page 52. Survey of husbandry practices Bob Sloane from market research company Kynetec reported the results of a significant survey of the husbandry practices of more than 1,200 woolgrowers across six states. The survey results showed how committed woolgrowers are to the welfare of their animals and their ability to change. While 77% of Merino ewes and 66% of Merino wethers nationally are still mulesed, about 85% of lambs that are mulesed are now treated with at least one pain relief product, an increase from 77% in 2013/14. There has been rapid adoption of pain relief by Merino producers since the first product was commercialised in 2006. BREEDING & SELECTION Industry progress in breeding for breech strike resistance AWI’s Geoff Lindon reported that the indirect indicators of breech flystrike – lower wrinkle, dag and breech wool cover – are key risk factors for flystrike, and forum participants learnt that industry now has access to tools and strategies for breeding for plainer breech strike resistant sheep. Industry has had access to commercially available breeding values via MERINOSELECT for these significant traits since late 2009. With a balanced approach to selection, participants heard that reducing breech strike and increasing production is possible but much harder in the Fine and Super Fine Merino types. Breeding for breech strike resistance continues across the national flock with medium Merino types showing strong gains towards reducing breech wrinkle and cover and thus the risk of breech strike. Rate of genetic gain in reducing breech flystrike Dr Forbes Brien of the University of Adelaide informed the audience about a project that will revise predictions (first made in 2015) of the future genetic gain achievable for reducing 48 ON FARM At this year’s 2018 Breech Flystrike RD&E Technical Update, attended by 115 industry stakeholders, significant and incremental progress was reported from a wide spectrum of research projects and trials conducted on farms and in laboratories.
In the Shops - September 2018