Knowledge: The Knowledge Base is designed to assist brands to obtain additional insight into Australian supply capacity and the issues around obtaining verified and fully traceable Australian merino. This page mostly contains short summaries which in most cases link to more detail.
Australia is the dominant producer of merino wool supplying approximately 80% of the total volume used in garment manufacturing.
Annual production is around 300 million kgs greasy weight or 200 million kgs clean weight.
World production has been in decline for many years and this trend is continuing.
Australia produces more non-mulesed wool than the total merino production of the main other merino producing countries ie New Zealand, Uruguay and South Africa.
There are approximately 26,000 wool growers in Australia.
Of these, approximately 3,100 produce non-mulesed wool or have ceased the practice of mulesing.
Australia produces 8,400 tons (clean weight) of non-mulesed merino fleece wool.
This is equivalent to approximately:
75% of South African total merino production
125% of Argentinian total merino production
100% of New Zealand total merino production
The supply chain in the wool industry is long. This is because merino wool is predominantly grown in the southern hemisphere but processed in the northern hemisphere.
The processing lead times can likewise be long because there are many stages from the shearing of sheep on individual farms to consolidation, shipping, washing, combing, treatments, spinning, knitting/weaving and garment construction.
Verification of supplying farms for land management and animal welfare adds another dimension which can only be catered for reliably through good planning.
Cost of Certification
The cost of certification is very small as a proportion of the cost of yarn.
The chart below identifies certification as 1.2% assuming a yarn cost of US $33.00 kg.
The link below will provide more details and a breakup of the costs in percentage terms.
Freeze Branding of Sheep
Previously known as Steining
Extract from the RSPCA Knowledge base:
Steining involves the application of liquid nitrogen directly to a lamb’s skin around the tail and breech area. This causes the skin to die and drop off to leave an area of stretched, scar tissue similar to the effect of mulesing.
The procedure uses a device that tightly clamps excess skin on the lamb’s breech and then applies liquid nitrogen to this clamped skin until it is fully frozen. The clamp is then removed and treated skin eventually falls off. Studies of an earlier model of the applicator found that the method is painful and had no benefits in terms of reduced pain over mulesing regardless of whether pain relief was provided . There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the current application technology causes any less pain or distress to sheep. Irrespective of adaptations of the method itself, the application of liquid nitrogen directly to the skin, will cause pain to the lamb.
Differences to the RWS
Australia is a very large country and the production conditions can vary considerably when compare to other merino producing countries.
The cost of certification to the RWS can be very high both under the both the Farm Group Model and as an individual farmer seeking certification.
Travel costs for audits are considerable.
NewMerino® has developed a more efficient methodology for the assessment of farms against a set of standards without impacting the integrity or veracity of the standards. This methodology is audited and verified by Control Union, an independent, internationally operated certification body.
From Farm to Yarn
A New Era
In the days when wool was just wool, was a traded commodity and blended to compete on price, the focus was just that – price.
Today wool is appreciated as a high-performance natural fibre recognised for its unique characteristics to produce specialised garments designed for targeted market segments.
This has been made possible through the breeding, genetic development and selection of merino sheep as well as new technologies to measure the raw fibre for the elements which directly affect the performance and comfort of the finished product.
Objective measurement enables processing batches to be blended to achieve a predicted performance making merino a fibre of choice.
Add to this the demand by consumers for an assurance that ethical and sustainable farming practices have been used requires the employment of a new supply system.
Four Paws Guide Book
In December 2019, Four Paws International produce a Guide Book to assist retail brands transition away from using mulesed wool.
The book is 28 pages so we have included the two pages where there is a table setting out the features of the various integrity systems.
It should be noted that NewMerino® rates very highly.
All wool from a sheep is useful, however it is not all useful for manufacturing the same products and therefore does not have the same value.
When a sheep is shorn, the wool is classed into a number of categories dependent what area of the sheep it has come from.