Farmers fear financial pain over live exports
‘We have done nothing wrong but will wear the cost.’ Farmer Max Watts
Wandering farmer Max Watts has applauded the Federal Government’s new standards for exporting sheep, including reduced densities, but is nervous about WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan’s mission to pause shipments during the northern summer months.
Mr Watts said a pause during the northern summer would have wide-reaching and longer-term implications than just during that period, primarily because customers would go elsewhere for supply.
Mr Watts, who expects to sell about 2000 sheep for live export this year, said the debacle had already caused prices to fall about 10 per cent to 20 per cent, and the losses could get bigger if a summer ban was put in place.
“I was horrified to see the footage, myself and other farmers are very frustrated,” he said. “Producers do their best to look after their animals and ensure good welfare standards on the farm.
“We have done nothing wrong but will wear the cost.”
Ms MacTiernan has argued the Federal measures, though an improvement, do not go far enough in addressing animal welfare and restoring public confidence in the industry.
The minister expects to have advice by the end of next week on whether she has the power to impose a ban on sheep ships leaving WA during the northern summer months.
Although reduced stocking densities would affect prices paid to farmers, Mr Watts said it was essential animal welfare standards aboard ships were improved.
“Wool prices are at record levels, which is helpful and provides a buffer,” he said.
“But the dry season means farmers are having to handfeed sheep at great expense.”
Mitchell Hunter, who farms at Bruce Rock with his father Greg, said the family were ready to sell about 300 sheep a few weeks ago but would have lost thousands of dollars from their value because of the tumbling prices as a result of the recently reduced stocking densities.
He said the family had decided to keep and fatten the sheep to make them suitable for the domestic processing market, which was costly because of the need to hand-feed them.
Wandering farmer Max Watts says an export pause during the northern summer will have wide-reaching effects.