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Beyond the Bale : Jun - Jul 08 Supplement
By Sue neales t o Bruce Michael, the prospect of not having to mules 4500 lambs each year always seemed like a bright idea. For a start, at a cost of 70 cents a head, it would save money for ‘Murrayfield’, the magnificient 4000- hectare grazing property on Tasmania’s Bruny Island that he manages on behalf of its owners, the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) and the local Weetapoona Aboriginal Corporation. Mr Michael had never much enjoyed mulesing his 12-week-old, fine-wool Merino lambs every October anyway. Additional factors are that the ILC has a strong ethic of social reponsibility as one of its farming objectives, while a large proportion of beautiful Bruny Island’s population is highly environmentally aware and sensitive. With several main roads carrying both locals and tourists running through ‘Murrayfield’, and following the global call by animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in 2004 for a ban on mulesing, Mr Michael also rightly predicted that the writing was on the wall for the practice. In addition, he foresaw marketing benefits in being able to sell fine Merino wool from non-mulesed sheep to European and Japanese textile and clothing companies, especially when the ‘Murrayfield’ flock did not have chemicals applied to its wool. So, in 2005, four years after the ILC bought ‘Murrayfield’ and its flock of 13,000 fine-wool Merino and first-cross sheep, Mr Michael decided not to mules any of that season’s 4500 lambs. It was a big step and not one taken lightly. While the climate of ‘Murrayfield’ is not hot, the property has a huge worm problem in its flock every year which, together with the rapid growth of green feed all year round, caused big scouring, stained wool and flystrike problems. Breech flystrike in badly scouring sheep, no mulesing: a learning curve three years after stopping the practice of mulesing, tasmanian woolgrower Bruce michael uses a range of techniques to manage flystrike especially among the weaners, was an annual problem, while each winter ewes would be lost to worm infestations. “It’s just not correct to say it is easier for us to stop mulesing in cooler places like Tasmania because we don’t get flystrike when, in fact, I think we get more flystrike because of the big worm problem,” Mr Michael says. “We won’t often get body strike here – the main problem is breech strike in daggy sheep from being dirty on their backsides.” The three years since Mr Michael and his team at ‘Murrayfield’ stopped mulesing their lambs has been a steep learning curve. Tough sheep selection has been one answer. One young ram used by ‘Murrayfield’ in particular had, besides the main selection criteria of large on-fArm CAse study Beyond the BALe roAd to 010 SuPPLeMent “ It’s just not correct to say it is easier for us to stop mulesing in cooler places like tasmania because we don’t get flystrike when, in fact, I think we get more flystrike because of the big worm problem.” – BruCe mIChAel
Apr - May 08
Jun - July 08