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Australian Inventions & Products


In 1954, the CSIRO invented an ink for marking the coats of sheep to identify them.  Si-ro-mark does not stain the fleece, and cuts the cost of scouring, or washing the wool.


The Invention of Si-ro-mark

SI-RO-MARK branding fluid is a lanolin based sheep branding compound. Not affected by rain. Works best by dipping the branding iron directly into the can. It is necessary to let the sheep free immediately to prevent transfer by rubbing. Remains identifiable for up to one year and is completely removed during the normal scouring process. Easy, economical to use and can be applied to wet or dry sheep. 

Si-ro-mark Sheep Branding Fluid

Si-Ro-mark branding irons
Si-ro-mark Sheep Branding Irons

A problem that had been of concern to the wool industry for decades was the removal of sheep branding products from raw wool. This was near to solution when, in 1950, the Geelong laboratory released a formula for a sheep-branding fluid based on lanolin, designated LBE (lanolin-based emulsion). Until this time, all types of materials, ranging from paint to sump oil and tar, had been used by farmers to identify their sheep. These products had quite significant cost disadvantages, both in discounting to the farmer for the contaminated wool and in the subsequent manual removal of the 'stained' fibres at various stages in processing. These losses were estimated to be at least $3 million in the early 1950s, or 2 per cent (worth about $40 million in 1983/84) of the total value of the clip. Provided it was applied as recommended, LBE was scourable, so the losses were avoided. Not surprisingly, it was quickly adopted by industry.

LBE, however, was not perfect, needing several hours to dry on the sheep, otherwise it would run if there were immediate rainfall. Further research eventually led in 1954 to a new, improved formulation, and this was released as Si-Ro-Mark.

LBE had not been registered as a trade mark, and some manufacturers had introduced their own 'improvements', with dire effects. To ensure that the recommended directions were followed, CSIRO registered Si-Ro-Mark as a certification mark. There were 20 licensees in the first year, and each licence was subject to initial and follow-up tests by CSIRO.

Si-Ro-Mark is still manufactured today around the world. In hindsight, it was a relatively simple idea (utilising a by-product of wool scouring (lanolin) as a medium for light-stable pigments), yet the requirement was for a very delicate balance between scourability and durability under sometimes severe weather conditions. It is heartening to note that the cost savings accruing to the wool industry through this one development have paid many times over for the total investment made in Australian wool textile research.

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