Sheep and wool producer Charles (Chick) Olsson has always had a keen insight with regard to animal welfare when it comes to on-farm operations.
So it is no surprise that his Four Seasons Pastoral Company at Goulburn in the Southern Tablelands is run with a ‘Gold Standard’ in animal wellbeing.
There, Mr Olsson and his team, along with the guidance of Crookwell Vet Hospital veterinarian Jayde Costello, have achieved and maintained a Gold Standard in animal wellbeing for the last three years.
About 3000 sheep are run at the 1200 hectare Four Seasons property, all carefully overseen by manager of eight years, Nathan Selmes.
Merino ewes are bought in with 700 joined to Border Leicester rams. The ewe portion of these lambs then joined back to Poll Dorsets. Dohnes have also been recently introduced.
But achieving and maintaining the Gold Standard in animal wellbeing is what makes this sheep and wool enterprise thrive, one which Mr Olsson feels can be easily achieved by other woolgrowers around the country.
“Most sheep producers are doing a lot of the basic constituents required to achieve a Gold Standard anyway, but they are not being recognised for it,” Mr Olsson said.
“That’s the purpose of the Gold Standard – saying hey, we are already doing this, why aren’t we just recognising it and proudly getting behind a brand that everyone can use.
“We seem to always be on the back foot all of the time, such as live export and mulesing, but the fact is 99 per cent of these growers are doing a tremendous job with their sheep, and they always have, but they have never been proud to say ‘this is what we are doing’.”
To achieve a Gold Standard in animal wellbeing the enterprise must abide by the five ‘freedoms’ as well as run a veterinarian audited system for best practise care of farm animals.
The five freedoms are – freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or disease, freedom to express (most) normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress.
Pre and post analgesia are used at Four Seasons for all lamb surgery with both Buccalgesic and Tri Solfen used during lamb marking.
A veterinarian, usually Crookwell Vet Hospital Director and veterinarian, Dr Jayde Costello, supervises and signs off on the procedure.
Mr Selmes, who is a shearer by trade as well as working most of his life on the family farming operation, said he can see a marked difference in the behaviour of lambs once properly treated, compared to when no pain relief is administered.
“There is a big difference in the lamb’s recovery, you can definitely see the difference when using both pre and post analgesics on the lambs when we are marking them,” Mr Selmes said.
“The lambs are up a lot quicker and mother back up easier.
“The sheep also seem a lot easier to handle.”
Dr Costello, agreed, saying miss-mothering is reduced and there is no set back.
“Properly treating against pain will increase weight gains after marking,” Dr Costello said.
“The lambs begin to start eating almost immediately.
“Using Tri Solfen will also reduce infections as they tend not to sit down as much and it has an antiseptic agent in it.”
She said following the five freedoms and achieving a Gold Standard makes perfect sense for sheep producers.
“If you are following the Gold Standard protocols then in turn you are going to be a better producer,” Dr Costello said.
“We are trying to change the mentality of producers. If it’s good for your animal then it is good for your bottom line.
“When animals are in less pain they will produce better wool and or meat.”
Other practises followed at Four Seasons are no sheep are shorn in winter and faecal egg counts are conducted regularly with the aim to only drench at the required time.
Being recognised as having a Gold Standard has allowed Mr Olsson to sell all of his wool produced, Merino and crossbred, into the European market to wool buyers Modiano, at a premium price.
“We produce around 70 bales a year, and all are sold directly to Modiano,” Mr Olsson said.
“None of our wool goes through the auction system.”
The wool is tested at AWTA and Mr Olsson is given 10 per cent above market value across all microns.
“What Modiana are after is a type - a low vegetable matter (VM) and a good quality wool, and what makes good wool is good sheep with good feeding.
“I’d like to think this area becomes one of the leading producers of excellent wool with tremendous welfare standards.”