Mulesing and mulesing-free wool


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In this section dedicated to the in-depth analysis of issues dear to CAMCO, we begin with a raw argument, which we will try not to bury in too much detail.

While perhaps not the best of beginnings, because we are always concentrating on an active and peaceful life in nature, the reality of the matter is that before launching CAMCO’s activewear line, we sought out suppliers that supplied mulesing-free merino wool, and the continuation of the project was dependent on the success of this search: “no mulesing-free, no CAMCO”.

What is mulesing

Mulesing is a “surgical” practice codified by the Australian John WH Mules, who lived at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Lambs between 2 and 10 weeks old are subjected to this procedure, which aims to make a large area around / under the tail smoother and with less wool, where humidity and stagnant urine attract flies of the Lucilia Cuprina.
Merino sheep are characterized by wrinkled skin, which increases the amount of wool produced per tonnage compared to sheep with smooth skin. Through the use of sharp shears and iron cages, mulesing is used to remove the skin in the area described, and the scar tissue that remains (weeks after the operation, when the skin has regenerated) is smoother and with less wool, thereby partially eliminating the habitat sought by Lucilia Cuprina to lay its eggs. Larvae hatch from the eggs and eat the meat of sheep once they have entered it.

Mulesing is usually performed without anesthetic or pain relief beforehand, as well as with no subsequent antibiotic treatment. In general, a painkiller administered to the area just “treated” lasts about 8 hours, whereas the pain resulting from the operation lasts 72 hours, during which the lamb exhibits unusual behavior – it stays still with the head almost touching the ground, back arched, and muscles contracted, and then launches into short runs. The memory of the pain is kept alive for over a month, a period in which the lamb avoids men, especially the one who performed the operation.

It should be emphasized that this practice does not save the sheep from being victims of this fly, especially in the period following the operation, in which the living flesh is exposed – and then there is also the risk of other infections, in general. Obviously, the parties not affected by mulesing remain potentially attackable by the fly, despite having less appeal for it.

The alternative: mulesing-free wool

Mulesing is still widespread in Australia, by far the largest producer of merino wool in the world, while it is banned in New Zealand and South Africa. Australia is thus the only country where mulesing is practiced. The use of insecticides could be used to control the fly population, but with obvious disadvantages for the environment, the animals and the wool itself. The alternative should be to use the best agricultural practices, to feed the animals adequately and to take care of their cleanliness.

Basically, it remains to be noted that Merino breed sheep have skin with many wrinkles and a heavy load of wool that can often lead to collapse or death from heat stroke during the hot months.

Perhaps the Merino breed is not the most suitable for a humid climate like that of the areas where there is a risk of infection with Lucilia Cuprina.

Argentine wool is naturally mulesing-free from this point of view. The cold and dry pastures of Patagonia do not allow the multiplication of many parasites and bacteria, and the notorious fly has never existed here because the conditions for its multiplication are absolutely non-existent. Consequently, there is no mulesing in Argentina and never has been.

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