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Home > Media> 1998

4 September 1998

Media Release
Farm & Business Media

Sheep markers threaten export sales

Farmers who sell wool branded with marker dyes risk being black-listed by wool buyers.

Dye-marked wool is threatening exports of yarn and raw wool and has already resulted in at least one legal claim, says Paul Stanley-Boden from the Fernmark Quality Programme.

“The problem appears to be coming from dyes used to mark sheep which have been pregnancy scanned,” he says.

MAF-approved crayons and sprays have been used by farmers for many years. They’re needed to mark sheep which have been tupped, drenched or otherwise need identification.

Summit Wool Spinners is one company that has been hit hard financially by wool marker contamination. Wool manager Alistair Flett says the company’s overseas markets for undyed yarn have been put at risk.

“One recent case ended in a claim against us for $90,000. As a result we’re reviewing what wool we buy and who we buy it from,” he says.

Kai Tovgaard of wool exporting company Bloch and Behrens agrees, “We can’t afford the risk. Our business reputation is based on quality.

“We believe it is the responsibility of farmers to remove marked wool from their main lines. Those who don’t may find their wool is passed over.”

While farmers are advised to removed all marked wool at shearing, NZ Wool Group company WoolPro is looking closer at the markers themselves and the way they are used. Donaghy Industries Ltd, a supplier of farm products including sheep markers, is assisting.

While most stock markers used in New Zealand have MAF approval for use on sheep, the approval procedures pre-date the widespread use of pregnancy scanning. Scanning identifies dry ewes so they can be culled or put on short rations; and multiple bearing ewes, so they can be given extra feed.

“The preference is always to mark ewes on the head as this wool is easily removed at shearing,” says Mr Stanley-Boden.

“But the practicalities of scanning mean it is often hard to get to the ewe’s head. Instead, the flank—some of the best wool in the fleece—may be marked at close range.

“MAF tests never envisaged this sort of use. Often it causes marking of the fleece that cannot be scoured out.”

In the meantime, Mr Stanley-Boden advises farmers to only use MAF approved sheep markers, to use as little marker as possible, to avoid deep penetration or intense marking of the fleece and to remove any marked wool from main lines at shearing.

He also points out that cattle, deer or pig markers should never be used on sheep.

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