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Monitoring Progress

Merino ewes and Merino lambs, Midlands, Tasmania.

AWI and its partners are making strong progress toward reducing woolgrowers' reliance on mulesing and improving the lifetime welfare outcome for sheep.

A proportion of woolgrowers no longer use the traditional procedure. In 2005, a survey of woolgrowers by the Sheep CRC indicated only five per cent of lambs would remain unmulesed.  By 2013/14, an AWI survey indicated 40 per cent of all lambs and 24% of Merino lambs would remain unmulesed. This is a significant change in practice.

In a 2017 survey of 1,200 merino breeders across Australia, the results showed that 27% of producers were not mulesing ewes and 30% were not mulesing wethers.

The same survey showed that 83% of merino lambs mulesed received pain relief. Adoption of pain relief has been rapid since 2007 when it was first commercially available.

50% of the growers surveyed said they had reduced the size of their mules in the last 10 years.

Where the risk of flystrike in sheep is too high, woolgrowers are replacing or refining the traditional procedure with welfare-improved practices. Welfare-improved surgery with pain relief protect sheep from flystrike while longer term breeding programs build natural flystrike resistance in the flock.

Results from genetic research indicate breeding for enhanced flystrike resistance without a high reliance on chemical control and ensuring productivity is high can be successful but it will take a considerable amount of time to achieve particularly for super fine and fine wool sheep and sheep in high dag environments. There are approximately 100 non-mules Merino and Dohne Studs.

Independent External Reviews

External reviews of the AWI breech flystrike research, development and extension (RD&E) program are regularly commissioned to ensure that the program continues to meet industry and stakeholder expectations and to identify opportunities for future research.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) biannually reviews the AWI breech flystrike RD&E program, as part of an undertaking to international retailers.

Click on the link to view the latest AVA Audit Report (PDF 1.4Mb).

Independent reviews of the genetic component of the AWI breech flystrike RD&E program are undertaken annually to identify its successes and potential for improvement.

Click on the link to view the latest Genetic Review Report (PDF 244Kb).

National Wool Declaration

Introduced in August 2008, the National Wool Declaration (NWD) allows woolgrowers to declare the flystrike control status of their clip. Click here for more information about the NWD.

Woolgrowers can declare their wool as either Non-Mulesed (NM), ceased mulesing (CM wool comes from farms where farmers no longer practice mulesing) or pain relief treated (PR). Click here for more information about mulesing status.

Over a third of the wool sold at auction is declared through the NWD (source: AWEX). Click here to view auction statistics.

Strategies to Reduce Reliance on Traditional Mulesing

A large proportion of Australian Merino sheep remain highly susceptible to flystrike in the absence of mulesing. Although many woolgrowers are attempting to manage some or all of their sheep without the procedure, there are risks. Flystrike can increase, as can staining and use of chemical fly strike treatments. Lifetime welfare can decrease and the costs for labour, crutching and chemicals can increase by $3.00 to $6.50/ head and there is often a significant discount when non mulesed animals are sold to other woolgrowers. This discout can be up to 30% per head or more due to the welfare and increased costs involved with managing unmulesed sheep.

Proper planning is required to remove the traditional mulesing procedure from woolgrowing operations and manage the risk of flystrike.

Woolgrowers need to assess which combination of strategies gives their sheep the best lifetime welfare outcomes based on their specific circumstances. Strategies include use of pain relief products; improved fly control chemicals and usage; shorter joining and lambing periods; effective worm control to reduce scouring; additional crutching; accelerated shearing (every 6 or 9 mths), more emphasis on breeding lower breech wrinkle, lower breech wool cover, lower dag and more worm resistant sheep.