WAFarmers Wool Council Report – WPA Annual Review

Steve McGuire WAFarmers Representative on WPA Board and

Kim Haywood – Executive Officer, WAFarmers  



Following on from a good spring last year, seasonal conditions during 2017 have been variable. WA did have a good autumn, which led to good quality wool cuts towards the back of the year. We welcomed the lift in wool prices across the board this year and hope this trend continues so that prices stay at profitable levels. WAFarmers was also pleased to see the winding up of Graziers Investment Company and the return of funds to wool growers.

Livestock Production Assurance  

The sudden arrival of the LPA accreditation process, which was thrust on the industry in October, has certainly taken up a huge amount of time. The inclusion of a comprehensive biosecurity plan as part of the new LPA accreditation process and its associated fee certainly caused a lot of frustration and annoyance right across the industry and resulted in a large volume of phone calls received on a daily basis. WAFarmers wrote to the MLA, ISC, AHA, CCA and the State Government citing our concerns, particularly regarding the implementation and consultative process, as well as seeking responses to our proposed solutions to get the process back on track.

WAFarmers fully support WPA being included in discussions on LPA enhancements regardless of the fact that LPA relates to food safety. Any changes made to LPA have significant impacts for all sheep and wool businesses and, therefore, it is important for WPA to have a seat at the table.

WAFarmers gained a position on the Labor Government’s Working Group titled ‘Stop Puppy Farming’, as our main purpose is to ensure farm working dogs are exempt from this new Act. We are working with MLA’s ISC to get the Australian Working Dog Code of Practice included as part of LPA audits.

NWD and Pain Relief

The uptake of the National Wool Declaration is slowly increasing and WAFarmers continues to encourage all growers to use pain relief and complete the NWD as a valuable condition of sale.

Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Valuations

Discussion on EAD valuations and compensation are ongoing and WAFarmers fully supports WPA’s endeavours to get the policy changed so that valuations are established prior to an outbreak, not prior to destruction.

Lamb Dentition 

WAFarmers supports the proposed change to the Australian definition of lamb, which will allow a larger percentage of high quality lamb to enter the market as lamb rather than being discounted to a mutton based definition.


WAFarmers, in support of partners, hosted another successful series of Sheep Health Workshops this year. Geoff Lindon from AWI provided an excellent presentation on the latest innovations being trialled in the industry, and WAFarmers thanks AWI for supporting the workshop program.

Wool Exchange Portal

The WAFarmers Livestock Council’s policy position on the wool exchange portal, now known as WoolQ, is that we support the concept in principle but believe alternative funding should be found to support its establishment and delivery rather than the use of R&D funding via levy contributions. WAFarmers has encouraged AWI to collaborate with other entities that have developed similar platforms to create linkages and enhanced efficiencies for wool growers.

Wild Dog Control Programs and Funding

After considerable consultation on the WA Wild Dog Action Plan, WAFarmers commended the WA Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food for her foresight in securing a considerable amount of funding to support a number of wild dog management projects in WA, including the repair and maintenance of the State Barrier Fence and the building of the Esperance Extension over the next four years.

WA Sheep and Goat Industry Funding Scheme (IFS)

The main priority area for industry funding contributions under the scheme remains to be the control and management of Footrot in WA. However this year, the WAFarmers Livestock Council supported a percentage of funding to be used for the employment of doggers on the inside of the State Barrier Fence given the significant increase in dog sightings and attacks in the agricultural area.

Wild dogs are a significant and rapidly increasing problem in the Wheatbelt. The dogs are moving large distances looking for easy prey, such as sheep. Modelling by researchers showed that even with current control measures, numbers will increase dramatically.

It is important for the Western Australian sheep industry to stop the decline in sheep numbers. It does not matter how profitable sheep are; you cannot run them if dogs are eating them.

The current IFS contribution is 10 cents per head (reduced from 12 cents in 2015) paid by all sheep producers and traders unless they opt out.

WA Strategic Approach to Biosecurity

Biosecurity is recognised as the top priority for the state and a robust strategic approach has been adopted including:

  • Legislated framework (led through BAM Act)
  • Landholder responsibility
  • Biosecurity Council
  • Biosecurity Senior Officers Group (BSOG)
  • Government Programs (e.g. Invasive Species)
  • Industry initiatives (e.g. footrot controls)
  • Boosting Biosecurity Defences (Royalties for Regions funding)

The WA Biosecurity Council is unique in Australia with the aim to strength the state’s biosecurity capabilities and advise on the effectiveness and purpose of the biosecurity programs. Seven members are appointed to the Council based on a skills matrix and experience.

Key areas of activity include:

  • Cross agency collaboration;
  • Emergency response preparedness;
  • Roles and responsibilities;
  • Resourcing within DPIRD;
  • Funding ag biosecurity;
  • Management of established pests and disease;
  • Biosecurity and market access;
  • Sustaining a biosecurity response; and,
  • Environmental biosecurity.

Research and Development

The renewed allocation of funding and resources for sheep research in WA has also become a priority area under the new State Government this year, a position pushed as a key election priority by WAFarmers. The WAFarmers Livestock Council requested funding and resources to be used specifically for the maintenance of the two WA sheep research flocks based at Katanning; the Genetic Research Flock (GRF), and the Breech Strike Research Flock (BSRF).

These flocks provide the measurements for modern statistical methods and DNA technologies to estimate breeding values for traits such as disease resistance, meat quality and reproduction that otherwise are difficult and expensive to measure.

The GRF receives 50 per cent of its funding from Meat and Livestock Australia and 50 per cent from the WA State Government through DPIRD. This research flock is used to progeny test industry sires for a wide range of meat quality related traits that are problematic and expensive to measure on live animals. The information is needed to identify genetic markers that are essential to estimate breeding values needed to genetically improve meat quality traits. The value of genetic gain for WA sheep producers to date is 20 to 30 per cent, with considerably more gain for some hard-to-measure traits that currently are difficult to improve.

The BSRF receives 50 per cent of its funding from Australian Wool Innovations and 50 per cent from the WA State Government through DPIRD. Funding is required for another five years (2017 to 2021) to achieve the outcomes needed by the industry to address animal welfare and trade demands.

The BSRF was established to identify indicator traits that can be used to breed for resistance to breech strike without the need to directly challenge the animals to be struck by flies. Mulesing is highly effective animal husbandry method to protect animals against breech strike, but it has become a highly controversial welfare issue. The currently known indicator traits only explain approximately 25 per cent of the differences in breech strike between animals, so there is still considerable work to be done. The animals in this flock are well characterised and provide crucial experimental material to the University of Western Australia for in-depth studies to identify other elusive factors that could be used to breed for breech strike resistance to eliminate mulesing in future.

SafeFarmsWA and WorkSafe Audits

SafeFarmsWA (formerly Farmsafe WA) was founded by farmers for farmers in 1994 through the voluntary work of farmers. Gross negligence resulting in an on-farm death or serious injury could incur massively increased financial penalties and jail terms within two years. Aside from the obligation and desire to protect our employees, foreshadowed legislative change will result in 800 times increased penalty provision and double the length of imprisonment associated with negligence leading to serious injury or death of an employee on a farm.

SafeFarmsWA launched a new website and farm safety manual in October to assist the farm sector as they cannot afford to ignore the changing emphasis on occupational health and safety.

Worksafe are the regulators when it comes to farm safety, and advised WAFarmers they will be paying particular attention to shearing sheds over the next 12 months. The risk to farming businesses which fail to comprehensively address safety on farm cannot be overstated.