“We’d only be guessing how much wool there is out there but feedback from field reps is that every motorbike they see has a can of spray on it.”
The dye stains in wool cannot be scoured out and a lot of wool is now not being scoured at all though Hales said the amount is not material given the overall volumes.
The staining could be potentially disastrous for the industry because it could stop processing of wool in its tracks, National Council of Wool Interests chairman John Dawson said.
“If this happened it would be very, very expensive to alleviate.”
It could be worse than it is because he believes a lot of wool stored on farms over the last few years of low prices has been moving through the supply chain.
The problem is not affecting huge quantities of wool but the problem is increasing.
“But this branding on the wool needs to be stamped out at the source.
“Any product that can get through the wool like this should be removed from the marketplace though I’m not sure how we get that done.”
The council will be discussing the issue at its national conference this week.
Hales said a range of sprays and raddles is causing problems rather than just one type or brand.
The issue could be easily and quickly solved if farmers and livestock scanners marked the top of the nose or the ears of the sheep and make sure they avoid the wool.
“The way of marking sheep has to change.”
Present practises might involve a dot on the wool or a 20cm stripe and neither of those can wash out.
Affected wool needs to be removed on the sorting table in the shearing shed.
Brokers and exporters are doing their absolute best to make sure the message is getting to wool growers, Hales said.
A major concern for NZ Woolscouring is that there appears to be no formal standard for marking sheep.
“A standard was written in 1992 but it’s never been policed or adhered to and there’s no Ministry for Primary Industries regulation on it.’’
NZ Woolscouring’s chief operating officer Tony Cunningham said the marker products being used might be the correct ones but being used in the wrong way.
There are reports that a small number of wool shipments are being reviewed, which could be put back on the farmer to meet claims.
Dawson, the chief executive at exporter NZ Wool Services International, said traceability means the liability could be put back to growers but as an industry you don’t want to be doing that.
“We just need to stamp it out. It can be easily done if everyone does the right thing.”
Dawson said it is irrelevant if wool is scoured domestically or overseas. Most wool is scoured here but farmers need to stop it before it reaches that point.
The stained wool is mainly a North island problem but has started to show up in the South Island, where shearing typically starts a bit later.
“We’re not sure what to expect,” Hales said.