Hello, friends! I hope you are all well. Today I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit more about the wool base that I use. I think it’s really awesome and I thought you might like to have a little bit more information as well. You may be surprised to hear this, but finding an affordable non-superwash base for dyeing is actually quite difficult (if you’re wondering why non-superwash is important, keep your eyes peeled for my next blog post 😉). Especially when you take into account profit margins, the need to stay competitive in a saturated market, and availability in bulk quantities. I am happy to say that I was able to find a base that meets all of my needs surrounding animal welfare and sustainability of farming practices as well as being affordable, soft, and high quality. All this information can also be found at https://newmerino.com.au.
All my wool is sourced from farms that are a part of NewMerino®, an independent group that does not have any financial connection to any part of the wool industry, which is an excellent way to know that the product being advertised is exactly what you are getting. The core values of this group revolve around animal welfare and sustainable farming practices, something that is very important to many of us fibre crafters.
So, what is involved in getting certified?
First of all, there are strict criteria around animal welfare that farmers must meet and this is ensured through an audit performed by NewMerino® and an annual declaration that required standards continue to be met. Farmers are expected to comply with the ‘shearing code of conduct’ as well as the ‘Five Freedoms’ which I will discuss in further detail later in this post.
If you are interested in reading the complete Wool Production Standards as outlined by NewMerino®, you can find them here.
NewMerino® closely examines animal treatment in their certified farms. Some of the requirements include access to fresh water and adequate feed at all times with a strategy to combat drought ready to be put into action when necessary. Livestock must also have easy access to shelter, something that becomes especially important under the hot Australian sun. It is outlined in NewMerino® guidelines that animals with any physical injury/disability must be attended to within 24 hours of problem identification.
- Tail docking is permitted but with one palpable joint left free to allow males to cover the anus and females to cover the vulva.
- Surgical castration must incorporate pain relief.
- Dehorning is prohibited.
- Shearing injuries must be attended to immediately by a qualified individual and pain relief should always be available.
Minimising Fear and Distress
- Minimal use of dogs
- Shearers must comply with ‘shearing code of practice’.
- If quarantine is necessary, animals must either be kept with companions or be within sight of other sheep.
- Predator risks must be assessed and control programs instituted as outlined by the RSPCA.
A little bit more about mulesing: Although NewMerino® does not permit mulesing practices, wool producers now have more scientific knowledge to help with fly strike prevention. Blowflies are potentially life threatening to untreated sheep. They deposit maggots in the warm and damp wool/skin folds which proceed to eat the flesh of the affected sheep and can lead to death. Thanks to advancements in genetics, it is now possible to breed for sheep that have less pronounced folds which minimises the risk that the flies can find a nice, damp place to strike. This way, the health of the animal is maintained without the need for surgical intervention and unnecessary pain and distress.
Farmers wanting to achieve NewMerino® certification are expected to have a grazing management strategy to ensure long-term sustainability of the farming practices and considering the “carrying capacity” of the ecosystem in that particular area. Every farm will have a different “carrying capacity” depending on location, water availability, soil fertility, etc. It is also expected that the land be maintained in a way that allows it to bounce back from any unexpected stress. Strict requirements exist around soil maintenance, grazing practices, water quality, protection of endangered and/or unique plant/animal species, and the fair treatment and payment of employees and contractors.
Additional Information about Shearer’s Code of Conduct
Overarching Value: “If you see something wrong, you must do or say something about it.”
There is a shared responsibility and duty of care amongst every person in the wool harvesting team. Any behaviour that strays from this duty of care must be reported. This duty of care revolves around the ‘Five Freedoms’. It is required by the code that every person acknowledge that “animals do feel pain and experience fear and stress.” A copy of the code must be signed by the contractor and prominently displayed in the shearing shed.
- Shearers and shed hands must be suitably trained and not operate under the influence of drugs/alcohol.
- Every effort must be made to minimise stress for the animal.
- Every effort must be made to reduce risk of accidental cuts and in the case of major injury, work must immediately cease to provide suitable treatment for the affected animal. Pain relief and antiseptic treatment must always be on hand. All injuries requiring treatment must be recorded.
There is a zero-tolerance policy associated with the ‘shearer’s code of conduct’ and abuse of animals or violation of the drugs and alcohol policy results in immediate dismissal.
List of the Five Freedoms:
- Freedom from Hunger
- Freedom from Thirst
- Freedom from Fear
- Freedom from Distress
- Freedom from Discomfort