Animal welfare tops agenda
LIVESTOCK transport is a tough game at the moment, with animal welfare exposés, rising costs and red tape.
However, Mark Talbot, an executive committee member of the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Western Australia, couldn’t be more passionate about the industry.
The owner-operator has been running Wedderburn Transport, his livestock and rural transport business, for more than 20 years.
Based in Brunswick, WA, 25km north-west of Bunbury, Mark is a staunch advocate for rural and regional economies and, as a fourthgeneration beef farmer, a vocal proponent for animal welfare.
“I have a passion for cattle and trucks. I grew up with that passion, so that brings me to where I am,” he said.
“My wife Angela and I have our transport business that specialises in cattle plus a little bit of general freight and hay, and a farming enterprise as well.”
Welfare at all levels of the chain, from driver to supplier to animal, will take centre stage at the upcoming LRTAWA annual conference to be held in Bunbury from July 20–21, with the theme of “driving a healthier industry”.
As a farmer and a member of the National Animal Welfare Committee of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (of which LRTAWA is a subsidiary), it’s not surprising that this theme resonates with Mark.
“Animal welfare and driver welfare are probably our highest priorities,” he said.
“They’re up there together. I have a passion for livestock, so I care about the cattle. I care about what we do and my staff are the same. We all have that same passion for making sure we do the job right.”
In fact it’s so important to Mark that 20 years ago he began designing and constructing his own trailers and stock crates.
“I’ve always had an interest in design and building equipment and with a farming background you become a jack-of-all-trades.
“I started looking at a lot of the equipment that was being used and I could just see the shortfalls in it.”
Mark then went on to employ a boilermaker to assist with construction while he did the design.
Together they built their first stock crate, combining all they had learnt to create something that suited the business. They went on to build five trailers with a trailer manufacturer in Perth, but continued building their own crates.
“We’re trying to be a bit more innovative and make our trailers easier to use and better for the livestock,” said Mark, adding, “we look at the design of the pens inside, the type of flooring, the ramp set ups. All the little things that add together to make the whole job a little bit easier on the livestock inside the crate”.
“Our crate design has also had us look at driver safety, with safer access to the crates for loading and unloading.
“Ladders and catwalks have been improved and we now open the bottom pen gates at ground level – no more climbing onto the side of the crate.”
Mark and his team at Wedderburn prioritise keeping the crates clean and washed for the benefit of cattle, the business and the public.
Ease of washing has been a recent design consideration and they are now running effluent tanks on the trailers.
A smooth ride and internal lighting are also priorities.
For that, Mark has worked closely with his local Truckline store in Bunbury.
“The ride of the trailer is fairly important,” he said.
“Truckline recommended a suspension to me in the very, very beginning, which we ran with and we’ve pretty well used that all the way through. That’s mainly so it’s not a harsh ride for the stock.”
PASSIONATE MAN: Mark Talbot couldn't be more passionate about the industry and animal welfare.
Mark designs and constructs his own trailers and stock crates.
Mark has been running Mark Wedderburn Transport for more than 20 years.