Livestock Export Review

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Last updated: 2 Aug 2011

Cattle Council of Australia

Cattle Council of Australia

 
Submission

Independent Review into Livestock Export Trade


18 July 2011


 
1 Cattle Council of Australia

The Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) is the peak producer organisation representing Australia's beef cattle producers. The objective of the Council is to represent and promote the interests of Australian beef cattle producers through wide and regular consultation with, and policy advice to, key industry organisations, relevant Federal Government Departments and other bodies regarding issues of national and international importance to beef cattle producers.
CCA has a federated structure, made up of eight State and Territory farmer organisations that in turn have direct producer members.  CCA policy is developed by its member organizations which have proportional voting rights based on the numbers of cattle and beef enterprises that they represent in each state.

2 Role of Cattle Council in livestock exports

From a policy perspective CCA is committed to a sustainable live export trade.  Export is a valuable and strategically important market for Australian cattle, particularly for northern Australian producers.  It provides marketing options for producers, underpins prices and demand for livestock, is complimentary to extensive cattle production systems and satisfies the needs of important markets that cannot be met through the export of chilled and frozen beef.  Cattle Council’s involvement in livestock export policy is outlined in Table 1 below.
Cattle Council is also involved in priority setting for industry research and development and marketing activities in Australia and export markets as set out in the red meat industry Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).  Under this MoU, CCA advises on strategic direction for the investment of grass fed beef cattle producer levies on research, development and marketing activities, and assesses the performance of services delivered by that investment.  
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) is the services company owned by Australian cattle producers and invests in the above mentioned programs on behalf of industry.  Details on the programs delivered by MLA relevant to livestock export are included in the MLA/Livecorp joint submission to this inquiry.

Table 1: Cattle Council activity in the live export supply chain. 

Sector of the Supply Chain

Relevant Codes, Standards or Industry Programs

Role of Cattle Council

Production

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle

 

On farm research and development

Participation in reference group and nominated independent vet to the Writing Group

Advice to MLA on research priorities

Land Transport

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock

Participation in reference group

Pre embarkation

Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock

On farm research and development

 

Training, education and awareness programs

Participation in Livestock Export Standards Advisory Group

Participation in Livestock Export Research and Development Advisory Committee

Assess performance of services delivered by MLA

Voyage

Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock

Research and Development to underpin standards

 

Involved in Livestock Export Standards Advisory Group

Participation in Livestock Export Research and Development Advisory Committee

Destination Country

Research and development, training, awareness activities, infrastructure and operating procedures.

 

Participation in Livestock Export Research and Development Advisory Committee

Assess performance of services delivered by MLA

3 Adequacy of current regulatory arrangements

The Australian livestock industry, in cooperation with State and Australian Governments has developed a sound regulatory framework, supported by industry programs, codes and communication materials to deliver animal welfare outcomes that meet or exceed World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines up to disembarkation in receiving counties.  This is now being extended through the remainder of the supply chain for feeder and slaughter cattle exported from Australia.

3.1 Domestic Supply Chain

Regulatory arrangements for animal welfare in the Australian domestic supply chain are underpinned by State and Territory legislation.  However the cattle industry does not aim to simply comply with regulation when it comes to animal welfare.  Beef cattle producers care for the health and welfare of their stock and invest significant time and resources both individually on farm and collectively through research and development to improve animal welfare outcomes.

Cattle Council is supportive of the existing regulatory arrangements and is supportive of moves to harmonise regulation across state boundaries.  To this end, Cattle Council participates in the writing of standards and guidelines for cattle production and transport under the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy that will lead to harmonized regulatory arrangements across State and Territory boundaries.

An example of industry support for compliance with regulation is the development of fit to load brochures, a pictorial guide that assists producer decision making on animals that are fit for transportation and those that need to be humanely destroyed.

Producers are also proactive in addressing animal welfare issues through investing in research and development.  Cattle producers have invested through the Beef CRC to develop a polled gene test to assist producers in their selection decisions to breed out horn traits from livestock.  Polled cattle deliver improved animal welfare outcomes both domestically and in markets that receive Australian livestock by removing the need to dehorn and reducing the likelihood of injury to other animals.

Enforcement and compliance of animal welfare regulation differs between State jurisdictions with responsibility resting with either primary industries or local government departments.  Cattle Council believes that the vast majority of beef cattle producers operate well in excess of regulatory requirements for animal welfare and that this is in fact necessary for producers to achieve economic and environmental sustainability. 

3.2 Voyage

‘The OIE establishes international animal health guidelines and has recently developed animal welfare guiding principles that are relevant to the export of livestock.  The Standards developed in Australia take into account OIE animal welfare guidelines and in most instances exceed these’ ASEL 2011

The facilities, treatment and handling of livestock through export preparation and on voyage is guided by the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock and monitored and enforced by AQIS and State Governments.

Cattle Council believes regulatory arrangements are currently sufficient to ensure good animal welfare outcomes and this is supported by the low incidence of mortality (0.04% mortality for cattle exported to south east Asia).   In addition to the good outcomes already being achieved, cattle producers and livestock exporters continue to invest in research and development to improve animal welfare outcomes.  On ship mortalities are investigated and cause of death identified, this information is used to improve preparation, on board management, animal health treatments and husbandry practices.

3.3 Destination country

‘Only exporters licensed by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) can legally export livestock from Australia.  Exporters are accountable to the Australian Government for the outcomes of each consignment.  AQIS must be satisfied that the importing country requirements are met before issuing a health certificate and export permit’ (ASEL 2011)

Cattle Council has limited involvement in the regulatory arrangements for the export of livestock post embarkation and is not involved in ensuring that practices in all markets receiving livestock are consistent with OIE recommendations.  CCA involvement in destination countries has been in providing strategic direction for, and assessing the performance of the expenditure of grass fed levies on R&D, consumer awareness, training, education and infrastructure to improve animal welfare outcomes.  

Australian livestock producers, through Meat and Livestock Australia and matched on eligible activities by the Australian Government, invested approximately $3million per year in research and development, training, infrastructure and awareness along the livestock export supply chain.  Part of this expenditure is used to deliver incremental improvement in animal welfare in countries receiving Australian livestock.

The policy objective has been to improve animal welfare outcomes where possible, recognizing that Australian cattle producers have no regulatory power and limited commercial influence to deliver practice change in countries receiving Australian livestock.  The industry has never claimed that animal welfare outcomes in all countries receiving Australian livestock were ideal but it has acted on opportunities for improvement when they arise.

To that end, investments have been focused on activities that deliver improvements to both productivity and animal welfare.  If a practice improves productivity, it is more likely to be taken up by supply chain partners in receiving countries and deliver benefits to animal welfare.

Examples of this include projects to deliver improved animal handling at facilities receiving Australian livestock and to improve ration formulation in Indonesian feedlots.  Improved animal handling delivers animal welfare benefits from reducing stress from handling and productivity benefits from increased live weight gain and minimizing setbacks to the animal’s growth path.
Improved nutrition has obvious productivity benefits but also delivers animal welfare benefits through reduced nutrition disease and improved rumen function and gut health.

The involvement of Australian industry in countries receiving Australian livestock has led to significant improvements in animal welfare outcomes, particularly in animal handling at receival points and in feedlots in places like Indonesia.  As Australian cattle move further down the supply chain, the less commercial influence Australian industry has and as a result the improvements to animal handling practices have had smaller and more variable impacts when compared to parts of the supply chain that Australian industry has the greatest commercial influence.

3.4 Future approach to supply chain management in destination markets

Cattle Council has until now pursued an approach of incremental improvement in animal welfare outcomes.  The industry through MLA has invested in improvements to animal welfare in places where that investment was welcomed.

Recent events have demonstrated that continual improvement is no longer sufficient to meet community expectations for animal welfare outcomes and the Minister for Agriculture has made it clear that high standards of animal welfare outcomes must be assured right through the supply chain. 

Cattle Council has been engaged in the Industry Government Working Group established by Minister Ludwig on 10 June 2011 to develop the necessary supply chain assurance system, and auditable operational procedure and checklists to minimize the risk of adverse animal welfare outcomes for Australian cattle exported live to Indonesia.  The Government has indicated clearly that this approach will be replicated and appropriately modified for all markets receiving Australian livestock.

Cattle Council is thankful for the constructive and diligent approach shown by all those involved in this working group and believes the systems that have been developed can be implemented and effectively manages risks up to and including the point of slaughter in Indonesia.

5 Types of Livestock

From the 1970s to the mid 1990s the northern beef cattle herd increased the percentage of Bos indicus, or tropically adapted cattle, from approximately 5% to approximately 80% (Farquharson et at 1993).  This change has delivered significant productivity and animal welfare improvements to livestock production in northern Australia.  Tropically adapted cattle have greater resistance to parasitism, particularly cattle ticks, and cope better with seasonal conditions through better adapted metabolism.

Tropically adapted cattle from northern Australia are highly suited to the conditions in Indonesian feedlots, this is demonstrated by the rates of weight gain the Australian cattle achieve in the 60-100 days they spend in Indonesian feedlots typically growing at rates of 1kg per head per day.

Markets in Europe and the Middle East express a preference for lower Bos indicus content animals, which makes heat stress an important issue to manage on extended voyages.  The Australian industry has made significant investments to manage heat stress such as computer models to predict heat load on animals.  These models include data based on temperatures, type of stock, loading densities and ship conditions, the output can be used as a decision making tool for exporters in the planning and loading of shipments.

6 Risk Management Strategies

Risk management for animal welfare is underpinned by a regulatory framework but supported by industry programs, manuals and communication materials relevant to different parts of the supply chain. The Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) are central to risk management

The ASEL were initiated in response to the Keniry inquiry of 2003 and have been developed and refined over a number of iterations, the most recent being Version 2.3 published in April 2011.  The Standards are supported by inspections and oversight from AQIS accredited inspectors and veterinarians from assembly for export through to disembarkation.  Reporting to the Australian Government through these authorized officers provides for monitoring of correct treatments and protocols in preparation for voyage as well as reporting of animal welfare outcomes during the voyage.

Regulatory risk management is supported by additional tools and programs for industry.  For example industry in conjunction with State and Australian Governments have developed and published ‘Fit to load’ brochures to assist decision making along the supply chain regarding the suitability of livestock for transport.  This tool supports Standard 1 in ASEL which describes the requirements for selecting livestock for export to manage animal welfare issues around stock selection. 

In addition sectors of the supply chain have developed their own quality assurance programs such as Cattlecare for the production sector and Truckcare, developed by the livestock transporters.  Others in the supply chain, such as livestock exporters have their own independently audited quality assurance programs.

Tools to assist risk management in countries receiving Australian livestock include manuals and standard operating procedures developed by MLA/Livecorp for subjects such as feedlot design and management, animal handling, animal health and nutrition.  These publications assist in the delivery of training and act as a reference for industry to improve productivity and deliver animal welfare outcomes.

References

DAFF 2011a. Australian Position Statement on the Export of Livestock,  Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

DAFF 2011b. Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock Version 2.3,  Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Farquharson, R.J., Griffith, G.R., Barwick, S.A., Banks, R.G. and Holmes, W.E. 2003, Estimating the Returns from Past Investment into Beef Cattle Genetic Technologies in Australia, Economic Research Report No. 15, NSW Agriculture, Armidale.

RMAC 2011. Red Meat Industry Memorandum of Understanding Version 4,  Red Meat Advisory Council