Wool biosecurity and traceability

Biosecurity and traceability is a high priority for the Australian wool industry.

Australia has clearly defined emergency animal disease response plans and strong governance arrangements that ensure preparedness in the event of a biosecurity incursion. To be ‘world-leading’ implies constant improvement, and the Australian wool industry is actively investing to maintain the highest possible standards.

The Australian wool industry also has a comprehensive system for tracing wool back to where it was grown and harvested. While this meets our needs and the needs of our trading partners, efforts to enhance and future- proof our systems are underway.

Fast Facts

Between 1.5 and 2 million bales of wool are produced in Australia each year, across more than 37,000 sheep production enterprises.

A typical wool bale will travel hundreds of kilometres from the farm to one of the three major wool-selling centres in Sydney, Melbourne, and Fremantle.

95% of greasy wool bales are exported to other countries for processing – mostly to China, which purchases 80-85% of the Australian wool clip.

National biosecurity

Protecting Australian sheep from the introduction and spread of diseases, pests and weeds, as well as reducing the incidence of existing diseases, pests and weeds, is the responsibility of all of us e.g. sheep growers, managers and handlers along with governments, scientists, veterinarians and the wider community.

The Australian wool industry takes these concerns seriously and is collaborating with the Commonwealth and state governments with investments that aim to maintain our status and maximise preparedness.

Farm Biosecurity

Australia has a well-established national Farm Biosecurity Program – a collaboration of the animal and plant production sectors that provides farmers access to the practical tools needed to reduce biosecurity risks and raise awareness.

Details of this award-winning program are accessible on the Farm Biosecurity website, where farmers can download the FarmBiosecurity app, access practical training videos as well as farm planning tools and manuals, and access information to ensure vendor declarations are completed correctly.

Emergency animal disease preparedness and management

Through a multitude of Emergency Animal Disease preparedness and response activities Australia is well positioned to minimise potential impact and trade disruption.

With robust surveillance and livestock traceability systems, incursions of exotic diseases can be rapidly detected, contained and eradicated.

The Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA), managed by Animal Health Australia, is a unique contractual arrangement that brings Australia’s governments and industry groups together to collectively reduce risk and significantly increase Australia’s capacity to prepare for and respond to emergency animal disease incursions. For emergency livestock diseases, the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN) is the nationally agreed approach for the response to emergency animal disease incidents in Australia, and is maintained by Animal Health Australia.

The Australian Emergency Plant Pest Response Plan (PLANTPLAN) is the equivalent for emergency plant disease responses, and is maintained by Plant Health Australia.

Our ability to respond effectively and link cross-sectoral priorities is constantly being improved – a recent example is the National Sheep Industry Biosecurity Strategy, a collaboration across sheep meat and wool sectors.

Tracing animals and wool bales

Each bale of fresh wool is traceable to the farm of origin, through a combination of the industry Wool Classer Specification, individual bale numbering and bale labels, and property identification detail.

Australia’s National Livestock Identification System (NLIS), provides processes for animal identification standards for sheep, cattle and goats, and individual property identification.

  • All livestock are required to be identified with an NLIS accredited tag before being moved from one property to another.
  • Each state in Australia is responsible for applying the NLIS national standards, and, as an example, the format for the Property Identification Code (PIC) differs state by state.
  • Australia’s National Wool Declaration (NWD) is managed by the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX), and enables bales of wool to be traced to individual farms and the mobs of sheep within. The individual PIC is listed on the NWD.

National Wool Declaration

Since 2008, the Australian National Wool Declaration has allowed wool growers to declare their mulesing status which is now internationally recognised and widely used.

Movement of wool

A typical wool bale will travel hundreds of kilometres from the farm to one of the three major wool-selling centres in Sydney, Melbourne, and Fremantle.

After sale, bales are packed into shipping containers for export to processing centres. Around one-third of them are exported ‘dumped’, where two or three bales are hydraulically compressed to the volume of a single bale, and bound with steel bands.

National Traceability Framework

The Australian National Traceability Framework (ANTF) is an Australian government initiative across all industries to enhance our traceability systems and respond to international drivers for change. The ANTF was initiated after a 2018 review of traceability systems for all agricultural commodities, which found that while our current traceability systems meet our domestic needs and the needs of our trading partners, opportunities exist to enhance and future-proof these systems.

WoolProducers Australia is currently undertaking a review of traceability systems within the Australian wool sector to ensure that downstream customers are provided with traceability products that provide assurance in relation to the provenance, quality and other attributes of Australian wool.

Innovation: WoolClip, WoolQ and eBale

Traceability of wool bales starts in the shearing shed, and two new digital tools now available to Australian growers offer the potential to streamline information flow and reduce risk of errors.

The WoolClip app and web tool creates wool and NWD information at the farm level and transmits it to the next stage in the supply chain. WoolClip captures electronically enabled bale labels to complete the independent traceability story by reducing errors and increasing efficiencies through the raw wool supply chain.

WoolQ™ is a secure online platform where woolgrowers, classers, brokers and buyers can access digital tools to support all stages of the wool-growing and selling cycle. WoolQ™ includes a digital classers specification and network functionality for provenance and trading purposes.

eBale: With around 1.5 million individual wool bales filled each year on approximately 37,000 farms around Australia, large scale trials are now underway on-farm and in-store, with new AWEX e-Bale labels containing a QR-code for in-woolshed use, and a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag for use along the logistics pipeline, both domestically and internationally.