Who are the decision makers in our industry? Take for instance the topic of mulesing. There is a regular discussion going on throughout our industry around whether or not mulesing should be phased out, banned, retained, encouraged or whatever else anyone can come up with. Personally, I hate the practice, and I hate the fact that we still even need it in some Australian sheep.
My view on mulesing isn’t designed to make life more difficult for merino breeders. I just simply believe that we have all of the necessary breeding tools available to us, to breed high performing, productive sheep that don’t require mulesing. They won’t be perfect, and crutching might be slower and more frustrating for shearers, but in time we would end up questioning why it took so long to stop the practice. A practice that our customers and consumers hate.
And that brings me to my point on industry decision makers. The comments invariably come around to why “industry” hasn’t banned mulesing. Individual producers have even said to me “we don’t like doing it, but while we are still allowed to do it, we will”. My question is simply; Why is it up to someone else to tell you that you can’t mules?
My belief is that the individuals that make up our industry need to be more progressive decision makers themselves. Industry leadership is important, but you don’t need a title to be a leader. If you don’t believe that practices such as mulesing should continue, and if you want to share the values of our consumers, then start in your own backyard.
The worst thing that could happen, actually, is that mulesing is banned overnight, and millions of sheep in Australia have had no preparation for the ban. No breeding strategies, or management planning implemented to deal with the immediate change. But ultimately that will be the likely outcome at some point in the future. And when it happens sections of the industry will cry foul about a lack of time to prepare for the change. Another KODAK moment for the history books, where everyone could see the change coming for years, or even decades, but were too stubborn to implement changes sufficient to adapt in time.
“But they don’t pay a real premium for unmulesed” I hear you say. Should they? Should they pay you more for doing the right thing? Or will you instead, sleep easily knowing your product is produced in the best possible way.
But this article isn’t really about mulesing. It is about decision making within our industry. Too often we wait for someone to tell us what we can, and can’t do, rather than striving to be the very best we can. Forget what others in the industry might be comfortable with, if you want your industry to be better, then make sure you are demonstrating the way of the future to others. If you want an industry that doesn’t mules, then show them how successful your non-mulesed enterprise is.
It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about mulesing, or lamb survival, or live export, or whatever else you or your consumer may be uncomfortable with. You don’t have to wait for everyone else before initiating change. Walk at the pace of the slowest and you will make little ground. Travel quickly in the right direction, and watch people try to keep pace with your progress.
Our industry is full of leadership programs and courses, all designed to help shape the future of the industry. And that is great. But sometimes the biggest impacts come from the smallest changes. Changes you make as an individual.