Author Topic: "..this frustration can result in a shearer being rough or cruel to a sheep."  (Read 4217 times)

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"..this frustration can result in a shearer being rough or cruel to a sheep."
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2014, 11:25:15 AM »
An empty stomach the key to less grumpy sheep

Tuesday 9 September 2014 11:06AM

        Inside the shearing shed Image: Sheep are placed in an unnatural position to be shorn (Lauren Waldhuter)   

Shearers say extending the time sheep are kept off food and water before shearing could reduce animal mistreatment.

The Shearing Contractors Association of Australia says sheep with full stomachs are harder to handle because they are uncomfortable being forced onto their rump and back.

'You know yourself what it's like if you go out for a big meal and then come home and squat down and sit in a very unnatural position.'

He says 'one of the things mentioned consistently by shearers and shearing contractors is their frustration towards woolgrowers when presented with full sheep that have not been fasted
sufficiently prior to shearing.'

Mr Letchford says shearers sometimes view this as a 'lack of respect for the very hard task they have to do and when someone is too lazy or complacent and presents those sheep in too short a period since they've last eaten, the shearer's just upset.'

He says occasionally this frustration can result in a shearer being rough or cruel to a sheep.

SCAA secretary Jason Letchford says while the shearers' award calls for a minimum of four hours off food and water prior to shearing, that should be extended to 20 hours.

He says while a 20 hour fasting period is not a silver bullet, it is in line with standard practice in New Zealand's wool industry.

New Zealand department of labour guidelines state that full sheep may 'kick and struggle more during shearing and can cause hazardous conditions in the woolshed by passing more faeces and urine'.

However the guidelines also cite farmers' concerns that prolonged periods off feed prior to shearing can affect growth rates and cause metabolic problems.

The New Zealand guidelines state that a ewe that is neither pregnant nor lactating should spend no less than 20 hours and no more than 32 hours off feed prior to shearing.

The ewe should spend no less than 12 hours and no more than 24 hours without water prior to shearing.

These recommendations also apply to adult male sheep.

Jason Letchford says 'horrific' videos of cruelty published two months ago by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals illustrate the need for a wide ranging code of practice within the wool industry.

Alan McGufficke, a woolgrower at Cooma and a former shearer, says on his farm sheep are emptied out for at least 16 hours before shearing.

Chair of the National Animal Welfare Steering Committee, Professor Alan Tilbrook, says sheep are probably OK for 1-2 days without water but he emphasises that rigorous research around this is lacking.

'The impact of time off water will vary with age, physiological status such as pregnancy, health status and, of course, the local environment especially temperature and humidity.'

The RSPCA says it's concerned about the potential of a lengthy time off feed adding to the cumulative stressors associated with shearing.

A spokeswoman says the RSPCA 'looks forward to being consulted over the development of a shearing code of practice where proposals such as this can be properly examined in the light of the available science'.