On September 12th, the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) participated in an Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) meeting for industry representatives to provide an update on their flystrike R&D and welfare work. Peta Slack-Smith, Group Manager of Corporate Affairs & International Market Access for AWI, gave an informative presentation about AWI’s recent highlights, including:

  1. Breeding & Selection. AWI has led extensive research on the link between genetics and flystrike, finding that breech strike is highly heritable. In fact, researchers have identified the top five genetic traits that lead to flystrike, and some farmers have already been able to stop the practice of mulesing due with breeding, so AWI has dedicated an additional $1 million to studying the genetics.
  2. Breech Modification Development. AWI has also been focusing on interim solutions—including clips, which are already on the market, and SkinTraction and laser treatements—to reduce flystrike until breeding achieves resistant sheep, especially in regions of Australia where flystrike is more prevalent due to weather conditions. Many of these new technologies have encouraging welfare assessments so far, leading AWI to continue research. Additionally, though the ultimate goal is to end mulesing, AWI’s work also has led to more than 80 percent of farmers who do practice mulesing to provide pain relief for the sheep, and leading animal rights organizations have recognized AWI’s good work to promote humane mulesing and research to end mulesing.
  3. Improved Management Practices. AWI has found that some chemicals, particularly liquid nitrogen, provide good control even in less than optimal conditions, though there is a concern of developing resistance and chemical residues so AWI continues to research this area.

The group also heard from Neil Jackson, an award-winning wool grower in Western Australia, who discussed his devotion to his animals’ health and welfare, and Dr. Ian Colditz of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), who provided more details on the research into SkinTraction, liquid nitrogen, and laser technology to eliminate flystrike.

The AWI presentation is available here and Dr. Colditz’s presentation is available here.

Peta Slack-Smith concluded by noting that she is available to have confidential conversations with companies about the issue and how you can better ensure humane practices in your supply chain. If you would like to connect with her, please contact us.