Making the transition to a ceased-mulesing flock

Is your flock currently mulesed and you are considering stopping mulesing?

If so, don't just give up mulesing 'cold turkey'!

First, read through the 10 steps below to see what might be the best way to prepare to cease mulesing.

You might need to spend the next year thinking about and discussing the points below. Plainer breeches are the cornerstone of a non-mulesed flock, so some flocks might need a more concerted breeding effort over a number of years to make them less susceptible before stopping. In southern Australia, dag management can also be a critical factor.

In the meantime, use pain-relief options if mulesing is continued.

Don’t expect to get it exactly right the first time, but be prepared and flexible to change with different seasons.

While a written review and plan is ideal, it is not essential—you can start right now by reading the 10 steps below and reflecting on the questions and points under each one.

Importantly, if you have family and staff involved in your sheep management, include them too—just start the discussion at smoko with, “How about we plan to stop mulesing?” then keep talking and take it one step at a time.

Another great reference is the 2018 report by Geoff Lindon, AWI, Planning to move to a non-mulesed Merino enterprise, which outlines the key learnings from wool-growers who have moved to a non-mulesed enterprise; real stories from real people who have taken the plunge.

1 . Identify the flystrike risk periods on your property

  • When is my seasonal flystrike risk?
  • How does my shearing time affect risk?
  • Can my shearing time be optimised, considering the points below?
    • wool production goals
    • shearer availability
    • wool length at lambing and joining
    • minimising flystrike risk
    • grass seed
    • dags risk and season

Use the FlyBoss Compare management tool to assess your flystrike risk.

2. Assess the flystrike susceptibility of your current sheep

  • What is my current rate of flystrike?
  • How and when would that change without mulesing, crutching or chemicals?
  • What traits do I need to change about my sheep?
  • Would I improve them through breeding, management or both?

Refer to FlyBoss Breeding and Selection pages to assess your flock.

3. Identify your new ideal sheep and have the conviction to breed them

  • Which traits do I need to focus on?
  • What will make the biggest, fastest gain, what’s next?
  • How much change is required?
  • Where can I get those traits?
  • How will I make the move?
    • How might I break long-established relationships and build new ones with ram breeders?

Refer to FlyBoss Breeding and Selection pages to see what is achievable.

4. Identify new or modified practices that could be used

  • Which traits will need to be better managed?
  • What are the management options for them?
  • How do those options fit with my whole business?
    • Labour
    • Facilities and equipment
    • Cost
    • Skills
  • How might I have to do them differently to now?
    • Method
    • Timing
  • What’s my new management shortlist?

Use the FlyBoss Tools to see how management changes on your property will affect your flock’s flystrike risk and also optimise your treatment times.

5. Review whether you and your team have what it takes

  • Am I part of my team?
  • Do I share the goal and the journey?
  • How can I inspire then?
  • Do we really know how and when, not just what to do?
  • Do we have the know-how, equipment, time and determination?
  • What are the attitudes of our shearers?

Consider joining a producer group or attending training.

6. Learn what you might need

  • Am I set in my ways or open-minded and will accept the following?
    • Critique
    • Ideas
    • New or alternative ways
    • Help
  • Where do I learn more?
    • New information sources
    • Training options
  • Do I know what’s needed based on risk and impact?
    • Plan even for low risk events if they are high impact

FlyBoss has a wealth of information on flystrike prevention and management.

7. Surround yourself with support

  • Who’s on the money?
    • Find the performers: whether they be experts, advisers or other producers
    • Sign up, logon, watch, listen and ask
    • Assess those in your business or providing services to you on what they achieve, rather than what they say

8. Be prepared and flexible

  • “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” 
  • What could go wrong and how likely is that?
    • Know all your options, even for the less likely problems
  • Am I ready?
    • Have know-how, staff, equipment and products on hand or quickly available for the likely issues
    • And not too far away for less likely problems
  • Can I handle a change of plan?
    • Being prepared for changes makes for less stress and a better outcome

9. Take the plunge, but keep your eye on the ball

  • Are you putting off the change?
    • Recognise procrastination
    • Don’t be paralysed by a need for perfection
    • If you have gone through the earlier steps: stop planning, start doing; 100% success is never assured
    • But don’t relax just yet: Keep an eye on the ball because flystrike happens quickly
    • Information and planning reduces risk and anxiety

10. Review, improve and rejoice

  • Are you asking why and how?
    • Ask “why did that happen, how can we do it better?”
  • Are you prepared to do it differently next time?
  • Do you celebrate and enjoy the small wins as well as the large?