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Beyond the Bale : Dec 06 - Jan 07
12 INNOVATION BEYOND THE BALE By Fiona Conroy Woolgrowers are giving researchers a practical appraisal of clips as they road-test the alternative to conventional mulesing technology on their lambs this season. Ten growers have been working with AWI to develop mulesing alternatives, while another 90 growers have tried the clips on 100 to 200 lambs per property this spring. Jock Menzies is a superfine woolgrower on the Northern Tablelands in NSW and has worked with researchers developing alternatives to surgical mulesing over the past year. "We normally mark around 3000 Merino lambs a year with lambing in October, lamb marking in December, shearing in August and crutching in May," he says. Mr Menzies dedicated 500 ewe lambs in spring 2005 to the trial and volunteered to leave a portion of the lambs unmulesed as a comparison. "We need to find an alternative if we are going to have an industry with no conventional mulesing after 2010," he says. Lambs in the trial have either been conventionally treated, left unmulesed, treated with clips or given a chemical treatment to create stretch. All the lambs are individually identified, run as one mob and managed the same way as the rest of the lambs on the property. "Flies are a seasonal issue with us and can become a bigger issue in wet years and if we have a worm problem with a buildup of dags," Mr Menzies says. "Our lambs have been through a dry season and might have had a higher fly challenge in a wetter year. "One of the challenges has been the fast-tracking of trials to meet the industry deadline, and in many cases trying products which are still being developed. Everyone involved has learnt a lot from going out to field trials early." The researchers are regularly measuring the lambs to monitor their performance but it has been clear to Mr Menzies that the untreated sheep have had the greatest incidence of fly strike and have more stain at shearing even though they have been crutched twice. "The group of untreated lambs highlight why we need an alternative -- for the welfare of the animals. Any control is better than no control. "The clips have changed since we used them and hopefully will be made reusable to overcome the issue of them falling off and lying in the paddock. Removing the clips could tie in with weaning to keep the cost of double mustering down." The search for an alternative needs to be accompanied by a change in the mindset of growers, agents and shearers on what treated sheep should look like and what is acceptable practice. "Instead of just looking for bare skin, we should be looking to limit stain, dags and wrinkle, which cause the problem." Tim McShane of Tasmania is one of 90 growers testing the clips on about 100 to 150 lambs this season. The McShanes operate the Stockman Merino Stud at Oatlands in the Midlands and run 50,000 sheep, lambing 23,000 Merino ewes each spring. This year researchers applied clips to 150 individually identified ewe lambs in early October. "The clips were slow to put on but some of this was due to the different types of applicators that were being tried. We used two different types of tail clips and in some cases put different clips on different ways," Mr McShane says. "A couple of the clips fell off in the yards, but they are due to start falling off about 14 days later. Having clips dropping off in the paddock has to be addressed if clipping is to become an alterative to surgical mulesing. If we need to apply three clips a lamb, to between19,000 and 20,000 lambs a year, then we'll have problems if the clips are either not biodegradable or reusable." The McShanes have considered alternatives to surgical mulesing such as increased crutching and repeated chemical treatment, but the cost is considerable and they have avoided the use of chemicals in the past. "We have to have our minds open to all the possibilities and try as many options as possible if the industry is to come up with a viable alternative by 2010." The lambs treated with clips will be on display at an 8x5 Wool Profit Program field day at Stockman Merino Stud in April 2007. ú More information: www.wool.com.au Clips road-tested in the search for a mulesing alternative Growers across Australia have been working with AWI to develop an alternative to surgical mulesing by 2010 Jock Menzies and development team applying the clips. The search for an alternative needs to be accompanied by a change in the mindset of growers, agents and shearers on what treated sheep should look like and what is acceptable practice.
Feb 07 - Mar 07