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Supporting sheep producers transition to non-mulesed sheep

Project start date: 23 March 2021
Project end date: 30 August 2024
Project status: In progress
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb
Relevant regions: Southern Australia
Site location: Victoria and Southern NSW

Summary

This project will support sheep breeders to utilise existing tools and management strategies available to transition to a non-mulesed flock. The project has seven producer demonstration sites spread across south west Victoria, north east Victoria, central west Victoria and southern NSW supported by three facilitators.

Objectives

By June 2024, in Victoria and southern NSW:

1. 40 sheep producers (core group members: 4x10) will:

(a) Identify their breech strike risk factors (environmental, genetic, management), understand how these are affected by season and changing climate, and develop their own management strategy (5-year plan) to reduce this risk.
(b) Support the establishment of 2-3 trials on farm per group to evaluate some element of their 5-year plan towards running a non-mulesed mob. This could be comparing a small mob of non-mulesed sheep with a mulesed mob or evaluating progeny of rams selected for ASBVs for fly resistance.
(NB: Agriculture Victoria has verified that this project does not need animal ethics approval).
(c) Evaluate the challenges, costs/benefits, opportunities of running a non-mulesed mob of lambs in comparison to a mulesed mob and explore future marketing and value chain opportunities.
(d) (at the end of project) Identify/plan for any further management changes required to allow them to move towards ceasing mulesing across the whole flock in the future.
(e) Conduct a (triple bottom line) cost benefit analysis of this practice change.

2. Implement a series of skills and training development activities to increase the confidence of 40 core and 40+ observer
producers to transition to non-mulesed flocks.

By June 2024, achieve an adoption target of:

• 25% of core producers ready to cease mulesing
• 75% of core producers have a 5-year plan to transition to non-mulesed (beyond the life of this project)
• 25% of observer producers have a 5-year plan to transition to non-mulesed

3. Conduct an annual field day and other activities to showcase the demonstration site results and encourage adoption of key practices by 20 attending producers (ie. 20 producers/field day, additional to the core group).

Progress

‘Towards non-mulesed sheep’ is a National program designed to support sheep producers to utilise existing tools and management strategies to transition to a non-mulesed flock. 

Through the program, producers develop their own flystrike management plan, improve their knowledge of breech strike risk factors, understand available management and genetic options and improve skills such as breech trait scoring. 

Group members have the option to run a small trial with their own sheep to evaluate their chosen strategy. Some of the trials being run and conclusions to date include: 

- Trial: evaluating progeny of sires with traits for breech-strike resistance 

Results: use of rams with low (favourable) early breech wrinkle ASBVs resulted in progeny with less wrinkle and reduced variation in BWR scores. There was little difference between weaning weights and greasy fleece weights when using low vs high breech wrinkle rams. 

- Trial: tail docking methods 

Results: no docking method stood out to be significantly better than the other visually at weaning, or in regards to dag and urine scores or crutching ease. Other factors that contribute to ease of management include breech wrinkle, dag and how well the tail area is crutched or shorn. 

- Trial: investigating causes of dag/options to reduce dag. 

Results: Improved worm control (more regular WECs, modified drench program) in weaner sheep resulted in higher weight gains over the trial period (July-Oct) and reduced dag scores. Feeding fibre (hay) did not reduce dag scores but did reduce weight gains in weaners. 

Get involved

Contact the PDS facilitator:

Lisa Warn

l.warn@iinet.net.au

Upcoming event:

11 Oct 2023 09:00AM - 11 Oct 2023 12:30PM

Click Here for more information and to register for the event.

 

 

For more information about the project or to receive updates about the demonstration sites and relevant workshops/field days in your region, click here to complete the expression of interest form.