Breech Strike Prevention - An Update

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) held its biannual Breech Strike Prevention Update in Sydney in August 2014. Glen Tilley, Tarlee producer and Chair of the SheepConnect SA Advisory Group attended the update and provides an overview of some of the presentations from the day.

The audience included representatives from the sheep industry, Australia wide, the RSPCA as well as a number of animal welfare/rights groups. A representative made a concluding statement on behalf of the welfare groups present that went along the lines of, that they were pleased with the progress and the effort made.

Breech Strike Prevention receives the most funds of AWI’s on farm research programs.

Breeding for fly strike resistance

Breeding for fly strike resistance has two centres of research. Western Australia (Mediterranean climate) where dags are a particular focus, and New South Wales (at Armidale, a summer rainfall environment) body wrinkle is the main consideration. Other factors besides dags and wrinkle are also being researched, such as odour and micronutrients. A vaccine is a possibility in the future.


Genomics research offers the opportunity to hasten selection for breech strike resistance. Genomics research is also, and I think probably more importantly, focused on focused on flystrike prevention through wool quality. The lower the ASBV’s for coefficient of variation for fibre diameter, the lower the occurrence of flystrike. ASBV’s for Early Breech Wrinkle (EBWR) and Breech cover (BCOV) are good indicators.

Mulesing alternatives

Of the other mulesing alternatives discussed, Skin Traction is progressing. It uses a needle-less, hydraulic injection but at this stage is slower than mulesing, requires a trained and accredited contractor and only for older/heavier sheep (adult skin, 30kg minimum, condition score > 2.5, breech wool < 8mm). It has reached an advanced stage where training and accreditation issues for contractors are being actively discussed.
Liquid Nitrogen has been trialled but it is in the early days. The liquid nitrogen is applied using four specially designed clamps and can be done at lamb marking.
Use of laser technology has not been a goer at this stage. The treated areas saw the wool regrow. AWI is reviewing this area of research to identify a way forward.

Pain relief

Meloxicam is a new pain relief product administered between the teeth and the gum, absorbed through the mucous membranes, works within 8 minutes and lasts for 24 hours. Producers will be able to ask for a sedative to be added at a low dose. The product will be on the market in November 2014 and retailed in 200ml bottles. Initially it will be registered for tail docking and castration but the company is hoping to also have it registered for mulesing. An indicative cost of approximately 50 cents per head was given. Manufacture is by Troy Laboratories. It will be registered for a range of uses where pain relief is required in both sheep and cattle.

Comparison of methods for castration and tail docking

Cold and hot knife, Te Pari hot knife and rings were compared for castration and tail docking. Castration had a greater impact than tail docking on subsequent activities and abnormal behaviours. None of the procedures were demonstrably better or worse when all assessment criteria were considered.

Declaration of mulesing status

Many sheep producers are leaving the Mulesing Status Declaration blank when selling wool. Market research has shown that it pays to declare the status even if the sheep are mulesed. Leaving the box blank attracts a small but measurable discount. Some buyers will not bid on lines of wool that they don’t know the status of. No significant premium for wool greater than 38 N/Ktex was recorded in the same work. The full analysis will be available at in a few weeks (Allan Wang: Wool Market Premiums and Discounts).

Key points:

  • Breech strike resistance selection - Key targets 2:2:3 – 2 for wrinkle, 2 face cover and 3 dag score.
  • Cull struck sheep (one ewe from the susceptible group at Armidale has been struck 15 times to date)
  • Don’t just stop mulesing. Need to re-balance basket of other control procedures and plan progression to phase out mulesing.
  • Australia wide the majority of Merino sheep producers are mulesing with pain relief.
  • TriSolfen has been changed from S4 to S5 – now available over the counter.
  • Meloxicam may be available for mulesing
  • Paraboss is a valuable resource in planning for breech strike prevention.

Further updates are available at