Completed Research Projects - Sheep - Part 3
Revisiting the Mulesing operation EC.830
Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff
- Dr Katrina Bosward
- Professor Paul Canfield
- Associate Professor Geraldine Hunt
- Mr Craig Macpherson
- Ms Michelle Lepherd
Mulesing was introduced to the Australian sheep industry by J.H.W. Mules in 1931 as a measure for the prevention of blowfly strike in sheep, and in particular, the Merino. The wrinkliness and wooliness of the Merino sheep breech makes it highly susceptible to urine and faecal staining, leading to a high risk of blowfly strike. Mulesing involves the removal of skin from around the breech and tail to decrease wrinkles and increase the size of the bare area around the perineum. The result is a significant reduction in staining, with the area drier and less attractive to blowflies.
Mulesing prevents debilitating illness and death due to blowfly strike. However, it is acknowledged that sheep suffer short-term stress and pain as the operation is performed without analgesia or anaesthesia. The Australian sheep industry is trying to find effective humane alternatives to this procedure and as part of a nationwide effort, the Faculty team is studying the conformation of the breech, examining the skin and assessing the best patterns for applying chemical or other non-surgical alternatives to mulesing.
The project will apply specialist surgical skills and evaluate the skin resection pattern used in the mulesing operation. Wound healing will be examined, focusing on the microscopic, ultrastructural and molecular changes that occur. The project will focus on characterising features that are present in the normal breech skin of sheep and comparing how these change with wound healing after the mulesing operation compared to the healing that occurs with the use of chemicals or other mulesing alternatives. The systemic inflammatory response incited by surgical mulesing and its alternatives will be examined by measuring a range of haematological and biochemical parameters.
This project is one of a suite of AWI projects aimed at assisting Australian wool growers to find an alternative to mulesing as a preventative measure for flystrike. The primary objectives are to put the mules operation on an evidence-based, scientific and quantitative footing as a foundation for investigating, devising and comparing alternative procedures.
Source of Funding
Australian Wool Innovation