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Beyond the Bale : March 2014
41 ON-FARM Fibre measurement – get to know your operator For many woolgrowers, fibre measurement is a key part of their selection and breeding program. Either by measuring individual fleece traits (such as fibre diameter) on-farm, or by sending samples to a laboratory for measurement, woolgrowers rely heavily on the businesses that provide fibre measurement services to deliver them precise and accurate results on which to base selection decisions within their flock. Commencing in 2004, AWI funded a program that was designed to assist fibre measurement service providers meet a range of QA standards that would help them provide results to woolgrowers that could be used with confidence. Whilst successful during its operation, the OFFM- QA program was discontinued in 2007 due to falling levy income and the view that accreditation of the private sector was not the role of AWI. FIBRE MEASUREMENT REVIEW In 2013, with rising levy income and requests from the industry, AWI conducted a further review of the fibre measurement industry, including views on the need and likely success of a new OFFM-QA program. The review was carried out by Ben Swain of BCS Agribusiness, an independent consultant experienced with both the previous OFFM-QA program and a regular user of fibre measurement services. He concluded that a relaunched OFFM-QA program could not be justified in terms of industry need or cost, and that funding by AWI of a QA program could not be warranted. AWI has agreed with the recommendations of the review. The review found no major or significantly negative consequences resulting from poor quality fibre measurement data during the absence of a QA program during the past five years. “It would be reasonable to conclude that the risk of such consequences occurring in the future is small, if the current commercial environment was allowed to continue unheeded by industry regulation,” Ben said. Some service providers have been using other QA schemes to promote their businesses. KNOW YOUR OPERATOR The review also acknowledged that woolgrowers need to be made more aware that the old QA scheme has ceased. Woolgrowers need to ensure they are getting the best value from their investment in fibre measurement by discussing QA and regular clear communication with their service provider. “You need to be comfortable in asking for answers to the questions that affect the outcome of the results you are provided with,” Ben said. “For example, ask your service provider if they calibrate their instrument and how it is carried out. Ask to see them calibrate their instrument either on-farm or via a laboratory visit.” Other questions that should be asked include, what internal QA procedures is the service provider following and are these procedures documented? Are all staff adequately trained and knowledgeable when it comes to operating the instrument? Ask to see evidence of both. “If you are not happy with the responses provided, use the services of a business that can adequately answer these questions.” THIRD PARTY ACCREDITATION Ben says that woolgrowers should be aware of the third party accreditation systems that are already available to fibre measurement service providers. “INTERWOOLLABS is a thorough and robust system that provides assurances of instrument calibration and measurement of fibre diameter on scoured samples,” Ben said. “Whilst it does not provide a perfect accreditation system for the on farm fibre measurement industry, service providers accredited under INTERWOOLLABS are displaying their commitment to quality assurance and woolgrowers should be encouraged to seek out service providers that are accredited under this, or similar systems. “You know better than anyone else what your results should look like. After taking into account seasonal conditions or a change in genetics, if you are suspicious of the results, talk to your service provider and if necessary a retest should be requested.” More information: Contact your fibre measurement service provider. FAST FACTS l A review of the old On-Farm Fibre Measurement (OFFM) quality assurance (QA) program has concluded that a relaunched QA program is not justified in terms of industry need or cost. l Woolgrowers can ensure they are getting the best value from their investment in fibre measurement by regular enquiry and clear communication with their service provider. l Existing third party accreditation systems are available to service operators and can be used to provide confidence to woolgrowers. Fibre measurement – a key component of woolgrowers’ selection and breeding programs. 41 March 2014 BEYOND THE BALE