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The National Wool Declaration: providing transparency on management practices in the Australian sheep industry

by Lillian Mukandiwa, ParaBoss Technical Manager

August 2018

What is the National Wool Declaration?

The National Wool Declaration (NWD) is an important document for wool growers to demonstrate their commitment to best-practice animal welfare on their properties. It is a voluntary, but recommended, declaration from woolgrowers that allows them to communicate with prospective buyers, processors, manufacturers and retailers regarding:

  • animal welfare practices (i.e. Mulesing Status) and;
  • the Dark and Medullated Fibre Risk (DMFR) of their wool

The National Wool Declarations are increasingly utilised by the wool trade, with more growers stating their current mulesing status. The declaration rates for the national clip by mulesing status have steadily increased from 2008 (38%) to 2017 (66%).

Why Declare?

The information provided in the NWD is vital in providing transparency to the wool supply chain about management practices in the Australian sheep industry and is backed by a strong integrity program.

  • For producers who have made the decision to stop mulesing, completion of the National Wool Declaration is an important step in demonstrating their practices to customers along the supply chain. It is also an opportunity to get premiums for wool from non mulesed sheep.
  • For producers who continue to mules, it is possible to declare the use of pain relief products at mulesing.
  • Producers who continue to mules and complete the National Wool Declaration are demonstrating recognition of customers’ requests for increased information and transparency.

How to complete the National Wool Declaration

Woolgrowers can use the NWD to declare their use of Pain Relief (PR), to demonstrate that they have Ceased Mulesing (CM) on their property, or state that their flock is completely Non Mulesed (NM).  Note: Mulesing is defined as the removal of skin from the breech and/or tail of a sheep using mulesing shears.


Figure 1. Example of an NWD, typically included on a classer’s specification. Source:  AWEX, 2017
Figure 1. Example of an NWD, typically included on a classer’s specification. Source: AWEX, 2017

How to declare the mob Mulesing Status

If a mob comprises:

  • only Non Mulesed sheep, it is eligible to be declared as Non Mulesed (NM)
  • only sheep mulesed with Pain Relief, it is eligible to be declared as Pain Relief (PR)
  • any mulesed sheep (without Pain Relief), it should be declared as Mulesed (M) (AWEX, 2017)

Ceased Mulesing (CM) status can be declared if no lambs born in the last 12 months are mulesed and no mulesed ewes or wethers are purchased (even if they had Pain Relief). 

There is no “allowable” number of Mulesed sheep in a Non Mulesed mob. Prior to shearing every effort must be made to draft off all Mulesed sheep from Non Mulesed sheep. The intention is that a Non Mulesed mob is just that, Non Mulesed.

How to declare mobs of sheep with mixed Mulesing Status

Wool from mobs that have different Mulesing Status, regardless of the number of sheep, should be declared as the lowest common denominator. For example

  • If Non Mulesed (NM) sheep are mixed with Mulesed (M) sheep, the mob declaration should be Mulesed (M).
  • If Non Mulesed (NM) sheep are mixed with sheep mulesed with Pain Relief (PR), the mob declaration should be mulesed with Pain Relief (PR).
  • If sheep mulesed with Pain Relief (PR) are mixed with Mulesed (M) sheep, the mob declaration should be Mulesed (M) (AWEX, 2017)

The National Wool Declaration-Integrity Program

If you declare your wool to be from non mulesed sheep, mulesed sheep that received pain relief or that you have ceased mulesing, be prepared to back that up because you may be inspected.

ParaBoss Executive Officer, Deb Maxwell, ceased mulesing her sheep in 2009 and has declared wool CM and NM for some years. This year she was called up for a sheep inspection to check none were mulesed.

The ewes were brought in for AWEX inspector, Grant Donnelly (pictured), who checked for scarring along the side of the tail and on the breech.

About 250 were checked and Grant felt the skin on every one.

Deb said, “It was no imposition as he was surprisingly fast, and it was good to have the opportunity to prove their status.”


Figure 2. AWEX inspector, Grant Donnelly, checking the mulesing status of sheep. Source: Deb Maxwell.
Figure 2. AWEX inspector, Grant Donnelly, checking the mulesing status of sheep. Source: Deb Maxwell.

The NWD-Integrity Program is an independent verification of the accuracy of Declarations made by growers through cross-checking documentation (i.e. NWD, Classer’s Specification and sale catalogue data), verifying the use of Pain Relief (PR), and On Farm Inspections of sheep declared as Non Mulesed (NM) or Ceased Mulesing (CM). It is conducted by AWEX, through randomly selected Desk Audits, Pain Relief Authentications and On Farm Inspections. The Integrity Program supports the NWD by ensuring that buyers, processors, manufacturers and retailers can have confidence in the Declarations made.


Figure 3. Example of a NWD-Integrity Program Inspection Report.  Source:  AWEX.
Figure 3. Example of a NWD-Integrity Program Inspection Report. Source: AWEX.