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Sheep markers: stick to the tried and true

Sheep markers: stick to the tried and true

Meat & Wool Innovation says sheep farmers should stick with approved sheep markers and use them properly, to avoid heavy price discounts or rejection of wool shipments by buyers.

Sheep markers were recently de-regulated. This means there is nothing to stop non-scourable markers being sold to farmers.

MWI quality and risk manager, Kelvin Whall, says the National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests (NCNZWI) and the Wool Research Organisation (WRONZ) are now working on a new scourability standard for markers.

He says the previously mandatory MAF standard is being reviewed. It will be replaced by a new voluntary standard by early next year.

"When we have the standard in place the council will encourage manufacturers to use it, agricultural product wholesalers and retailers to specify it, and for growers to buy markers that carry the endorsement."

In the past, there have been occasional serious problems with wool markers staining fleece and contaminating yarn.

"Some export shipments have been rejected and this has cost the industry money in claims. But perhaps the greater cost is the damage to New Zealand’s reputation as a largely contaminant-free producer for the world textile market," Whall says.

"A couple of seasons ago we identified a problem with people using aerosol markers in situations like pregnancy scanning. If they applied markers to label directions, they were fully scourable.

"The problem occurred when too much spray was applied too close to the fleece. The propellants didn't have a chance to evaporate. Instead they acted as solvents and fixed the dye onto the fibre so it couldn’t be scoured out."

Kelvin Whall says until last year, sheep markers were controlled by MAF under the Animal Remedies Act. It was against the law to use anything other than an approved marker.

“Now there is nothing to stop growers using whatever they like to mark their sheep. Since we are not aware of any changes to existing markers, growers should continue to use markers approved under the old system.

"The use of scourable markers has been a point of difference for New Zealand in the market. Growers in many other countries can and do use whatever they like, from paint to tar, but they pay the price individually in discounts and collectively in reputation of their national clip.

"This is now potentially a big risk to the New Zealand wool industry. A grower would be very unwise to use a marker that hadn't been previously approved, as it may make it extremely difficult for them to sell their wool."


Keeping markers out of the clip

Use only approved scourable wool markers – pig, deer or cattle markers, or paint are not OK

Reduce use of markers – consider using a chalk raddle where marks do not need to last for long, or use drafting gates to separate stock

Mark only the smallest groups when separating groups such as dry and multiple-bearing ewes. Leave the largest group in the flock unmarked

Mark the head rather than the back or flank. Head marks should break down more easily through exposure to sun and rain, and are a lot easier to see. The head wool is also more easily separated at shearing

Use the correct temperature grade of tupping crayon for the time of year and district. A soft crayon in warm weather will make a more intense mark

Use as little marker as possible, avoiding deep penetration and intense marks. Mark a small area and when using a spray can, hold it no closer than 15 cm (6 inches)

Always remove marked wool at shearing time Web links:

List of MAF-approved markers – MWI advice on markers –

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