Southern Australia’s entire live export trade would cease if the recommendations made by an independent panel of review into live animal exports are adopted in full.
The industry has been placed under the microscope since the release of shocking footage covering on-board treatment of sheep over a series of voyages to the Middle East last year.
As a result, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resouces appointed a technical reference panel to provide advice on a McCarthy report that recommended the industry move away from using mortality limits as a measure of success to a risk assessment model based on heat tolerance under a heat stress risk assessment (HSRA).
The object of the review panel was to focus on the export of sheep to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer.
But live export industry personal are fearful the panel’s recommendations on the new approach to HSRA will have wider ramifications stopping all cattle shipments made to the likes of China, Japan, Turkey and Russia that require crossing the Equator.
Landmark International, one of the most visibly-active live exporter in southern Australia, fears the new standards, if adopted, would have ramifications on the cattle trade, halting the substantial shipments in dairy heifers, Angus heifers, feeder steers and specialty sheep made each year from Portland, Adelaide and Fremantle.
Landmark International general manager Andy Ingle said changes made towards adopting the HRSA sheep model was anticipated to flow through to the cattle model.
“It has been made very clear in both the ASEL review and by HSRA review panel that a move away from mortality as a measure to heat stress risk assessment is favored” Mr Ingle said.
“But it will halt the trade of all shipments made of cattle from southern ports and notably of Bos Taurus cattle. It will be devastating for the region’s producers as it is not possible, even through the preferred shipping months between November to April, to met the recommended Wet Bulb temperature (WBT) of 28 degrees threshold as ships near the Equator”.
As an example, he said on Landmark’s most recent shipment to Russia, which is currently disembarking 12,000 feeder steers and included 6000 steers in Israel, the WBT through that voyage ran above the 28-degree threshold for seven consecutive days as it crossed the Equator and the shipment recorded only 0.013 per cent mortality rate.
“On that basis it would effectively close the trade to China that has shipped more than 700,000 breeding heifers over a period of more than 15 years without a reportable incident,” he said.
“A large percentage of those dairy heifers purchased over the years were purchased for $1200-$1300 per head average but take away live export and their value is less than $100- $500 on the domestic market.
“There has been no consultation and little research conducted to demonstrate animals become stressed above the WTB 28-degree figure. It is a figure plucked to close-down the trade without officially forcing it closed.”
Mr Ingle supported closer scrutiny of poor operators but said those who operate responsibly within the prescribed safety limits must be allowed to continue.
“It would be naive to think that ramifications would not be forthcoming as a result of these unwarranted actions.”