Australian Wool Innovation Limited (AWI) has launched a $2 million five-year research project to determine if selective breeding programs can produce breech blowfly-strike resistant sheep.

AWI is funding the project with research to be undertaken by Department of Agriculture Western Australia (DAWA) and CSIRO Livestock Industries.

AWI wool production general manager Ian Rogan said the project was part of the company's comprehensive push to find alternatives to the method of mulesing, in line with the sheep industry's commitment to phase out mulesing by 2010.

Australian wool makers have been berated for their use of the mulesing method, which involves cutting off folds of skin which have become affected by flystrike. Opposers say it is a cruel practice which is unnecessary and is only used to cut costs.

"AWI is exploring all avenues of research to find alternatives to mulesing and better solutions to  breech fly strike prevention and control," he said.

AWI expects at least one alternative to mulesing to be available by 2007 onwards but wants to explore a range of options for producers.

The project will involve intensive, long-term monitoring of two flocks of six hundred breeding ewes.

DAWA researchers Dr Johan Greeff and John Karlsson said while they believed it was possible to breed sheep less susceptible to breech flystrike, there was little hard information available.