Project Leader: AgPro Management
Duration: 2020 - 2024
Producer Involvement: Opportunities available
MLA Producer Demonstration Site
ASHEEP is taking part in a five-year project to support producers who are interested in shifting to non-mulese systems, run by Ed Riggall and Georgia Reid-Smith of AgPro Management.
The MLA-funded Producer Demonstration Site involves groups of producers (or grower groups) across the medium and high rainfall zones of WA. It aims to demonstrate best practice for non-mulese systems and provide support for producers wanting to shift to, or trial, not mulesing. The project will run over a five year period, comparing different varieties of pasture (annuals and perennials) across a range of soil types.
By identifying the most suitable varieties for the environment, the project aims to enable producers to identify opportunities to increase productivity.
Producers dag scoring during a non-mulese systems project workshop.
How can producers get involved?
There are opportunities for producers around Australia to get involved in this project. Direct support is available for farmers in WA who are looking to transition, or to trial transitioning. Interstate farmers can also link in to the conversations going on within the project via a range of WhatsApp groups that have been set up to share resources and connect producers.
Georgia Reid-Smith, AgPro Management, explained "It’s all about supporting producers through the transition, coming up with a plan and involving producers who have already shifted to non-mulese. This way, producers can draw on each others’ experiences, anticipate the challenges and support each other.
The project has come about due to the lack of support currently available for those wishing to cease mulesing, or even just wanting to know what the challenges and benefits could be. Following the threats of a mulesing ban in the mid-2000’s, many producers started on the path to stopping mulesing either genetically or through ceasing the practice. Some were successful and have continued to do so, however many failed to sustain change due to management issues & lack of support networks to help the transition. Currently, the national wool clip under 24.5microns is 7% unmulesed, with WA at even lower rates. The project aims to connect these producers with those wanting to investigate the change on their own properties. It is a great opportunity for producers to see how ready they and their business is for when the inevitable ban comes.
The most common changes required when a farm ceases mulesing is an increase in worm and fly control chemicals, or additional crutching or shearing. There is also of course breeding measures: selecting for low breech & body wrinkle, low dag scores and high worm resistance. In WA, most sheep already have low wrinkle, but this is the first aspect to consider before committing to a shift to cease mulesing.
It is important to analyse a business before making the decision- each farm is unique and require different levels of change, both before and during a shift to non-mulese. It’s also vital to have the right attitude, this will be harder initially than mulesing and will require commitment to be successful."
Tips for Successful Shifts from AgProManagement
Each property is different. Consider not just climate, sheep characteristics and husbandry timing, but also management skills and commitment to the shift.
PLAN. Make a plan and review it regularly.
Be flexible: the plan may need to change.
Genetics – what’s the potential for change?
What decision making tools are at your disposal? eg ParaBoss
Have you got the equipment and yards? Increased husbandry means sheep handlers, or better jetting equipment, may save you a lot of time.
As mentioned, worm and dag management are key for managing non-mulesed flocks in WA. If you’re considering the shift , one thing that can be managed now is the worm burden in your sheep and pastures.
Further info on non-mulese enterprises can be found via the AWI resource "Planning for a Non-Mulesed Merino Enterprise"
Contact AgPro Management or ASHEEP if you would like more information on this project. ASHEEP members will be provided with regular updates, visit our membership page if you would like to consider joining.