Cattle export plan concern
Tough new recommendations proposed in the new Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock could have a negative impact on the northern cattle industry’s viability, while animal welfare benefits were questionable, the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association warns.
Draft options for improving the standards were released in October. The cut-off date for stakeholder feedback was last week.
KPCA said it supported measures directly aimed at increasing transparency and building public confidence in live export, but added some recommendations presented significant risks of hurting producers’ margins.
KPCA chief executive Emma White said the mooted changes to ASEL could result in overly prescriptive and inflexible requirements, which were not substantiated by an evidencebased approach, nor measured against objective criteria.
Chairman David Stoate said the biggest concerns were reduced stocking densities (which could mean 14 per cent fewer cattle carried on short-haul voyages), and requirements for expensive bedding on short-haul voyages.
He said the changes were not required, given consistently low cattle mortality rates of under 0.14 per cent for short-haul and longhaul voyages over the past eight years, according to Department of Agriculture and Water Resources figures.
“Similarly, the recommendations regarding bedding requirements have more of a feel-good element to them to appease members of the public,” Mr Stoate said.
“These recommendations bear significant risks to the industry of reduced margins for producers for questionable animal welfare gains on a cost-benefit basis.”
The reporting date for the ASEL review was brought forward a year to the end of this year because of the uproar over vision of a disastrous sheep voyage to the Middle East.
Ms White said the trade-off in bringing the review forward was an inability to take a more innovative and enabling, risk-based approach informed by objective and scientific evidence.
“Unless more time is taken to revisit and review draft recommendations, there could be a number of unintended consequences, with significant flow-through implications to the future viability of producers and related businesses,” she said.
Australia exports more than one million cattle to more than 20 countries around the world each year, with a value of $1.2 billion.
Research commissioned by LiveCorp and Meat & Livestock Australia, and undertaken by Mecardo, found about half of all Australian live cattle export revenue — about $620 million a year — was retained by the producer.
Cattle Council chief executive Margo Andrae said the trade provided jobs for 10,000, including more than 2000 on-farm jobs.