Japanese buyers search out non-mulesed wool on Kangaroo Island

A group of Japanese wool buyers from the Muji company like what they see on Kangaroo Island farms when it comes to animal husbandry.

The buyers toured KI last week, meeting with farmers who are committed to raising non-mulesed merino sheep on sustainable farms.

Elders KI branch manager and district wool manager Marty Kay said an increasing number of wool growers on KI were committing to non-mulesing hoping to secure top dollar for their annual wool clip.

"It's not for everybody and it's still a niche market," Mr Kay said. "The Japanese want to be able to say they know their growers and Kangaroo Island has those defined boundaries and clean and green image."

While China still bought as much as 80 per cent of Australia's wool clip and were happy with pain control for mulesed sheep, the Italians and Japanese had moved toward non-mulesed sheep.

"The Muji buyers like our story and wanted to meet farmers who care about animal welfare and who have chosen non-mulesing," Mr Kay said.

The Muji visit comes on the heels of the annual visit to KI by representatives of the Japanese Pal System cooperative that purchases all of the Island's GMO-free canola through KI Pure Grain, and who have a similar interest in sustainability and ethics.

The wool buyers last week met KI wool growers at a function at the Aurora Ozone Hotel on Tuesday evening and have already committed to fixed contracts through wool companies.

The numbers are staggering with the company wanting 17,000 bales of non-mulesed Australian merino wool to stock their 950 and growing stores, where they aim to sell 6.5 million woolen sweaters.

Some growers on KI have been leading the way in non-mulesed sheep, including the Atkinsons at Wallaby Run and the Halls at Karkeen at Emu Bay.

Others were now moving in that direction including Ella Matta Pastoral, where the Japanese visited last Thursday, as well as the large Woodlana Station now owned by Growth Farms, the Wheatons at Red Banks and Simon Kelly at Mine Creek.

Ella Matta Pastoral posted on its Facebook about the Muji visit, which saw the Japanese dine on KI produce at the nearby Rockpool Cafe at Stokes Bay, followed by a tour of the farm and its wooded areas and wildlife.

"For a change in the lead up to our ram sale in two weeks, we had a group of Japanese wool buyers/retailers visit today from Muji," the post read.

"Specifically interested in non-mulesed merino wool and learning about what we do here. Sheep genetics, animal husbandry practices and environmental sustainability were some of the topics of discussion."

Kangaroo Island's sheep producers meanwhile are gearing up for the busy ram sale season, starting off with Bark Hut White Suffolk and Composite Stud this Thursday, October 3.

This will be followed with sales at Taljar Polwarths on Tuesday, October 8, Ella Matta Pastoral on Friday, October 11 and Stokes Bay Genetics on Friday, October 18. Deep Dene and Turkey Lane merinos will follow.