Australian woolgrowers will be coached on how to move away from the practice of mulesing as part of a $550,000 flystrike management project run by Australian Wool Innovation and designed to fill a critical knowledge gap. One on one training is being offered to at least 600 farmers from across the nation, with AWI on the hunt to recruit 15 veterinarians and sheep consultants to deliver its first the training during the next five years. The new Moving to a Non-Mulesed Merino Enterprise project is targeted at woolgrowers who are, or are planning to, manage flystrike without mulesing in line with the industry’s Wool 2030 strategy released two years ago. It comes eight months after a survey — run by AWI and Meat and Livestock Australia — revealed 42 per cent of respondents planned to cease mulesing their flocks within the next five years. AWI chairman Jock Laurie said the organisation supported woolgrowers who did and did not mules but could not shy away from the fact that there was a need for more information and support for farmers wanting to “specifically reduce their reliance on mulesing”. The project marks AWI’s first significant “active extension program” targeting woolgrowers wanting to reduce reliance on mulesing. “AWI recognises the critical importance of all flystrike prevention measures and continues to support all woolgrowers in their choices through provision of a diversity of best-practice information,” he said. “The project is designed to deliver the best outcomes for sheep, across a range of different climate and operating environments. “AWI is responding to increasing requests for information and support from woolgrowers seeking assistance to specifically reduce their reliance on mulesing.” AWI has spent $10.40 million on breeding or flystrike resistance-related research, development and extension during the past 17 years. Other recent efforts include approving $650,000 in funding for a collaborative project with CSIRO to fast-track further investigations into the development of a flystrike vaccine in August last year, and announcing $950,000 for research into flystrike genomics and workshops on breeding sheep for natural flystrike resistance three months later. Pingelly farmer John Hassell stopped mulesing his Merino flock 10 years ago and said he would never go back. “Although I believe AWI’s new project is a short-term stopgap measure, I think the funding is appropriate to raise awareness on the mulesing issue,” he said. “I always thought mulesing was a cruel practice and thankfully the industry is just 15 years away from widespread genetics that will allow more growers to cease the procedure. “Also on the positive side, AWI acknowledges there are premium signals in the market for non-mulesed wool.” Moving to a Non-Mulesed Merino Enterprise project represents stage four of a six-stage, $1 million flystrike extension program providing woolgrowers and farm advisors with a range of options to assist them with flystrike prevention and treatment. The project involves a one-day workshop and promotion of AWI-accredited industry advisers capable of providing hands-on assistance to woolgrowers looking for additional support and coaching to implement their property-specific, whole-of-farm plan. AWI has started to gauge interest from growers across the country and has not set a deadline for expressions of interest. An AWI spokesman said with WA’s hard border could pose a problem. “Ideally, we would be training the veterinarians and consultants in person, so we can’t set a time frame at the moment,” he said.