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Beyond the Bale : Apr - May 08
6 ANIMAL HEALTH BEYOND THE BALE Progress on developing alternatives to mulesing o In November 2004, Australian sheep and wool industry leaders expressed their commitment to the phasing out of the current practice of mulesing by 20 I O. o This commitment was made to reassure the industry's international markets and clients, following concerns expressed by international retailers and consumers about mulesing. o The industry instructed AWl, the industry's research, development and marketing company, to fast-track a number of research and development programs to enable an end to mulesing. o AWl is currently undertaking research and development on a number of alternatives to the current practice of mulesing. CLIPS The technology The clips are attached to flaps of skin that would be removed during mulesing. The clip closing pressure on the flap of skin prevents blood flow to that part of the skin. The lack of blood supply causes the flap of skin to wither and both the clip and the skin flap to fall off, typically within a couple of weeks, leaving a closed linear scar. There is no open wound at any time during the process. Another advantage of the clip method is that the amount of skin 'stretch' can be clearly seen during the process of applying the clips, making it easier to achieve the optimal bare-breech result. Summary of progress Work on the clips began in early 2005. Several field trials took place in 2006. In 2007, Australian woolgrowers were invited to take part in broad-scale commercial trials of the clips - more than 1100 woolgrowers responded with offers to trial the clips. AWl is currently immersed in the data entry and analysis process of the almost one million items of data generated by the 2007 clip trials. As would be expected from 200+ sites across Australia, the results are variable. Early indications are that the clips are working towards producing an outcome similar to conventional mulesing. A full analysis of the trials will be available by June 2008. A comprehensive animal welfare assessment provides significant support for the use of clips as an alternative to mulesing. NEEDLE-LESS INTRADERMAL INJECTION The technology The needle-less applicator delivers a measured dose of formulation into the skin - not through the skin, nor into the (/) !:!:! muscle. This causes necrosis (death of the skin cells) in the g --I treated area. The necrosis then develops into a dry scab which eventually falls off, leaving stretched skin underneath. I- The injection procedure involves the compound being w delivered into the skin using needle-less injection technology ffi o sourced from medical science. U è o I a... Summary of progress A range of chemicals have been trialled. An anionic surfactant and applicator - Skintraction@ - developed by private, Sydney- based R&D company, Cobbett Technologies Pty Ltd, with support from AWl, shows the most promise.This compound has already been registered for use in agriculture and medicine for other uses, such as the treatment of foot rot in sheep and varicose veins in humans. Further trials are now required prior to registration to confirm the initial findings, as well as to finalise the dose and application patterns. Meanwhile, researchers have been encouraged by welfare and histological studies conducted so far. Trials are continuing to be conducted by Cobbett Technologies, with the aim of registration as soon as possible. A number of other compounds have been evaluated and those which do not provide adequate flystrike protection or enhance the welfare of the sheep have been rejected. These include cationic chemicals such as cetrimide.The enzymes, including collagenase have been put on hold due to import restrictions. This is a normal process for an R&D program. BREEDING The technology Sires that are completely wool-free in the crutch and inner hind legs may hold the genetic keys to breeding animals that do not need to be either mulesed or crutched. Research into breeding sheep with an enlarged, naturally bare and wrinkle-free area around the breech is being conducted at two research centres, one in WA (representing winter-dominant rainfall areas) and a second in NSW (representative of summer-rainfall dominant environments). Summary of progress Early - 'first-generation' - results indicate significant potential to reduce breech wrinkle, increase natural bare area, and enhance resistance to breech blowfly strike. Ongoing research is looking at whether bareness traits are expressed to the same degree in all genetic groupings and varying environments, how many genes affect the trait and how they are inherited, and precisely what correlations exist with the production and quality traits that impact on Merino profitability. There are a growing number of commercial and seedstock producers in Australia who have made excellent progress in this area. Products that AWl has developed to help woolgrowers select sheep for breeding that are less susceptible to flystrike are Sheep Genetics, Merino Superior Sires and the Visual Sheep Scores guide. OTHER INITIATIVES o The Integrated Parasite Management - sheep (IPM-s) project was established to develop and prove systems for the control of flies, worms and lice that reduce reliance on chemical control. o A project to attempt the mapping of the blowfly genome has very recently been completed. Further extensive research is required to establish the function or characteristic for which each gene codes. Then the next step will be to identify genetic weaknesses for new chemical and biological compounds, and investigate the possibility of a vaccine. It will be some years before these developments occur, but there is exciting potential for an additional approach to blowfly control.
Feb - Mar 08
Jun - Jul 08 Supplement