Sourcing Responsibly Grown Merino

Responsible Wool Standard

The Textile Exchange has developed a standard for animal welfare and land management known as the RWS.

NewMerino® fully endorses the desired outcomes of the RWS which are listed below.

 For Animal Welfare
Management Farmers have a clear strategy and set of protocols to safeguard the welfare of sheep, and to demonstrate compliance to the RWS
Nutrition Sheep have access to sufficient feed and water – suited to the animals’ age and needs – to maintain normal health and to prevent prolonged hunger, thirst, malnutrition or dehydration
Infrastructure Sheep are kept in an environment that provides the conditions and facilities needed for health, safety, comfort and normal behaviour
Health Farmers need to demonstrate a good understanding and a proactive approach to ensure the health of the sheep is maintained through all stages of life. Sheep are free from pain, injury or disease through prevention, rapid diagnosis, and treatment.
Behaviour & Handling Good human-animal relationships are in place that allows the sheep to be in a positive emotional state and express natural behaviour.
For Land Management
Soil Farmers have an understanding of what will impact the health of their soil, and have a strategy to mitigate damage and improve soil health.
Biodiversity Farmers will have an understanding of what will impact the biodiversity of their land, and have a strategy to protect and improve it over time.
 Fertilizers  Farmers use the minimal amount of inputs to meet the nutritional needs of their land and to maintain their carrying capacity.
Pesticides Farmers use the minimum amount of pesticides to achieve adequate control of pest burden on their farm.

Why is RWS not working in Australia?

The adoption of the RWS by Australian farmers is very low.

This is because:

  • The cost of certification under the RWS model is seen by growers as very high.
  • Currently, there is no incentive or clear benefit for farmers to become certified.
  • Brokers are not motivated to become involved because only 12% of their grower clients have ceased mulesing their sheep.

In summary, the business model for its implementation is not suitable for Australian conditions.


Solution

  1. Maintain the RWS objectives and standards (with minor modifications for Australian conditions)
  2. Use the NewMerino business model to deliver wool against those standards.

 

The NewMerino business model

The RWS model requires that farms must be fully certified before they can supply any RWS wool.

The NewMerino system is described as a transitional model.

The key difference with the NewMerino business model is that the farm does not have to meet 100% of the standards prior to supplying wool.

The NewMerino model facilitates individual growers to transition to full certification over twelve months with full certification to be achieved before they can supply a second time.

However, when supplying in the first year they must meet two major objectives (NC1 elements of the standard):

  1. Have ceased mulesing
  2. Meet the Five Freedoms criteria for animal welfare

Other differences are:

  1. It works with the supply chain members to facilitate supply to meet demand side timelines
  2. Includes traceability as an embedded component
  3. Develops ‘Farm Profiles’ on all growers supplying wool.
  4. Has a supply planning facility

for more about the RWS visit the Responsible Wool Standard.org