Australian sheep

I like what my fellow WP blogger, ScienceLens, says about John Macarthur and the birth of the Australian wool industry. When I was at the National Sheep Association’s Sheep Breeders’ Round Table it was inspiring to hear Aussie experts. They benefit from economies of scale that British farmers can only dream of.

One of those experts said that mulesing is no longer being done. The Merino, which produces wonderfully soft wool, is a key breed in the Australian industry. But it has wrinkly skin making it particularly prone to flystrike. That’s why Aussie sheep get mulesed and it’s nasty. Don’t read this if squeamish. I’m disappointed to see on that website that mulesing still goes on. On the other hand, if you want to keep wool-heavy sheep in a warm place, they’re at risk of flystrike and that’s nasty too.

Merino wool is gorgeous. I myself have several merino jumpers. They’re a guilty pleasure because I know how the sheep got hurt. But I know too that the wool industry is hugely important to the Australian economy. John and Elizabeth Macarthur left a fine legacy of sheep farming.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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8 Responses to Australian sheep

  1. pcawdron says:

    Sounds horrible. Thought good to hear their top alternative is selective breeding to develop a bare area

  2. Daniel Digby says:

    What is the etymology of mulesing? The whole concept is new to me.

    • argylesock says:

      It’s new to me too in fact. All I know about it is in the articles I linked to in this blog post.

      I’m horrified by the pain being inflicted on young lambs. Otoh I’m horrified by other painful things done to young animals or humans too. Ear docking is outlawed here in Britain but it remains legal in America. So often when online American friends post photos of their pet dogs, I find it hard to admire the pet’s beauty and charm because what I’m seeing is mutilated ears. And then there’s the debate about circumcising boys.

      Going back to lambs, it’s routine here in Britain to use tight rings of synthetic rubber to castrate males (except those intended for stud) and to dock tails (except for hill breeds whose tails are useful to keep them warm). For horned breeds of cattle, it’s routine to cauterise the calves’ horn buds so that the animals won’t grow up so dangerous. That’s done to horned-breed goat kids too but I haven’t seen it done to lambs.

      There are a lot of painful things done to farm animals and many of them are justified, in my view, for the animals’ welfare or for human safety. I’m still undecided about mulesing. Of course it’s not my decision! but we’re all entitled to opinions about it.

    • It originates from the guy who came up with the idea apparently. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/mulesing

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