AgMemo - Livestock news, October 2019

Page last updated: Wednesday, 27 November 2019 - 9:12am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

In this edition:

Help prevent African swine fever entering and establishing in Western Australia

Animal welfare consultations

Preventing lead poisoning in stock

Value adding to meat through dry ageing

2019 bushfire season: are you ready?

Sheep Genetics forums

Help prevent African swine fever entering and establishing in Western Australia

Graphic reads "It is illegal to feed food scraps swill to pigs" with a picture of a pig and a red X through bucket of food scraps
It is illegal across Australia to feed pigs meat, products that contain meat or that have had contact with meat or non-Australian dairy (known as prohibited pig feed or swill feeding).

Every pig owner, pig hunter and landowner with feral pigs has a vital role to play in reducing the risk of the serious pig disease, African swine fever, occurring in Australia. With the spread of African swine fever throughout Europe, China, South-East Asia and most recently in Timor Leste, the disease poses a major threat to Australia’s pigs.

The disease is an infectious virus that usually causes high death rates in pigs and there is no vaccination available. It does not affect people.

The most likely way that African swine fever and other devastating exotic diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease could be introduced to Australia is through illegally imported meat products being fed to pigs.

For this reason, it is illegal across Australia to feed pigs meat, products that contain meat or that have had contact with meat or non-Australian dairy (known as prohibited pig feed or swill feeding).

African swine fever can be spread by direct contact with infected pigs (including feral pigs), contaminated vehicles, equipment or clothing and by feeding swill to pigs. If African swine fever became established in feral pig populations, it would be extremely difficult to eradicate.

All pig owners should immediately review and reinforce biosecurity measures to prevent African swine fever. In particular:

  • Review pig feed practices to ensure pigs cannot access swill. Also securely fence farm dumps to exclude feral pigs from accessing food waste.
  • Ensure feral pigs cannot access domestic pigs or pig facilities through appropriate segregation and fencing.
  • Ensure that farm visitors and staff do not have contact with your pigs if they have been overseas in the previous seven days.
  • Know the signs of African swine fever: sudden death, blotching of the skin, especially the ears, loss of appetite, huddling or hiding in corners, diarrhoea which may be bloody.
  • Call a vet or the emergency animal disease hotline immediately on 1800 675 888 if you suspect the disease.
  • If you suspect swill is being fed to pigs, call a department biosecurity officer or vet or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.


Anyone who owns pigs, even just one as a pet, is legally required to register with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) as a livestock owner.

In the case of an emergency disease outbreak such as African swine fever, we will need to be able to map the location and movements of all domestic pigs quickly. For more information about registering, contact DPIRD on 1300 WA NLIS (1300 926 547) or see

Feral pigs

All landowners have a responsibility under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 to manage declared pests such as feral pigs on their land. Control methods such as baiting with 1080 and trapping are preferred. These techniques concentrate feral pigs and provide the best opportunities to significantly reduce feral pig abundance in a specific area.

Hunting and the use of dogs to catch feral pigs should be avoided, as this can cause pigs to disperse or move to other areas, increasing the risk of spreading African swine fever.

For more information about the best options for management, contact a local DPIRD biosecurity officer or see the DPIRD Feral Pig page or visit the PestSmart Feral Pig page.


Hunters can help in the fight against African swine fever with good hunting practices, including.

  • reporting dead pigs or unusual disease signs in feral pigs to 1800 675 888;
  • cleaning and disinfecting equipment and bagging all carcasses before leaving the hunting site;
  • removing carcasses so that they cannot be accessed by other feral pigs and taking all food home;
  • not moving live feral pigs to another location – this is illegal and can spread disease.

Anyone participating in hunting feral pigs, should not have contact with domestic pigs.

International travellers

Visitors or farm workers from overseas should be reminded to not bring meat or animal products into Australia and to declare if they have been visiting farms or hiking.

To report international mail containing meat or animal products, contact the federal hotline on 1800 798 636.

Campers/grey nomads

Campers should always take their waste with them and dispose of it so it cannot be accessed by animals such as feral pigs.

For more information and further biosecurity measures, visit the Farm Biosecurity website or search ‘African swine fever resources’ on the department website at

For more information contact Dr Vanessa Rushworth, veterinary officer, South Perth on +61 (0)8 9368 3076

Consultation open as part of Animal Welfare Act review

LCU inspector at saleyard monitoring sheep
Department staff regularly inspect livestock aggregation points to ensure animals are receiving appropriate standards of care.

The independent panel overseeing the review of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (the Act) has started a public consultation process to help identify key issues in animal welfare in Western Australia.

The panel is chaired by Western Australian barrister and regulatory law specialist Linda Black, who has a professional background in animal welfare. The other members of the panel are Di Evans, Dominique Blache, David Marshall and Catherine Marriott, who have a range of senior veterinary, animal welfare and industry experience.

The panel is calling for written submissions from stakeholders and the public to help it conduct its review of the operation and effectiveness of the Act. Any comments should relate to the panel’s terms of reference, and submissions must be no longer than five pages or 2500 words.

There are two ways to make a written submission – either complete the secure online form or email a submission to

The consultation period closes at 5pm on 25 November 2019.

Over the coming months, the panel will also conduct several public forums to seek information and respond to questions about the review of the Act. Forums are scheduled on 26 November in Broome, 28 November in Karratha, 31 January in Katanning, and 3 February in Perth. Locations for Katanning and Perth are still to be confirmed.

Anyone interested in attending a forum can email to register their interest or find out more on the department’s website.

About the review

The aim of the review is to assess the operation and effectiveness of the Act, including whether it reflects contemporary best practice and what legislative amendments might be required. The panel will provide a report to Government by June 2020, with detail on its findings and any recommendations for legislative amendments or the introduction of new policies or standards.

More specifically, the panel is enquiring into whether the Act provides adequate protection to the welfare of animals covered by the Act. The panel will consider whether there is a need to broaden the Act beyond acts of actual cruelty to include the promotion of minimum standards for humane treatment.

The review will take advice and input from the community, industry, welfare advocates, scientists, veterinarians and relevant experts in determining how best to ensure that modern best practice can be achieved in animal welfare.

The panel’s review of the effectiveness of the Act is separate to the work being carried out by the department to implement the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for livestock (Standards and Guidelines). Amendments to the Act in 2018 have made the implementation of the Standards and Guidelines in Western Australia possible.

For more information contact Rick Bryant, Manager Strategic Communications, South Perth on +61 (0)8 9368 3346.

Protect livestock from lead poisoning – clean up paddocks and fence dumps

Rubbish dump
Unfenced farm machinery yards and farm dumps present a risk of lead poisoning or residues in livestock. Fence off dumps and prevent stock from accessing lead sources such as old paint, batteries and sump oil.

With the dry conditions prevailing over much of Western Australia this year and as we head into summer, there will be less available feed for livestock.

At these times, livestock may seek alternative feed sources, which may expose them to sources of lead.

Lead ingestion can cause poisoning in livestock, typically in young and inquisitive animals. Exposure occurs from licking or chewing the lead components of old or burnt machinery batteries, sump oil spills or flaking paints on machinery, cars, sheds or yards.

Affected livestock may not respond to sound or touch, may appear blind, stagger, have tremors and die. Always call a vet immediately if animals show these disease signs.

An intake of only small doses of lead in livestock may not cause signs of disease – but can cause residues.  

It is an offence under WA biosecurity legislation to supply meat for human consumption containing lead residue levels over 0.1 milligrams per kilogram or edible offal containing lead residue levels over 0.5 milligrams per kilogram.

The National Residue Survey (NRS), a national testing program, monitors livestock supplied to WA abattoirs and reports any elevated lead levels to state investigators. This system ensures product safety for consumers, as well as safeguarding our access to livestock markets.

Complying with the accreditation requirements under Meat and Livestock Australia’s Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program is vital to protect individual businesses and the sector as a whole.

Key steps are to remove potential sources of lead from paddocks and prevent stock from accessing machinery yards. Farm dumps should be fenced securely so that stock cannot get in.

Further information is available on the department’s website and search ‘lead poisoning’.

If livestock have had access to lead sources or are showing signs of poisoning, seek immediate veterinary advice by contacting a local DPIRD field vet or private vet.

For more information contact Bruce Twentyman, senior veterinary officer, South Perth on +61 (0)8 9368 4127

Value adding to meat through dry ageing

carving meat
Workshop attendees were presented with the latest research about dry ageing

Consumers seeking a unique premium eating experience are willing to pay a premium for dry aged meat. This was one of the key messages at the workshop hosted by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) earlier this month, held at Yarri Restaurant in Dunsborough.

A panel of experts took participants through the latest research about dry ageing, which compared wet and dry aged product, market segmentation of consumers, opportunities around dry ageing, and guidelines for dry ageing to get started.

More than 40 producers, butchers, processors, restauranteurs and retailers took part in the workshop. For lunch, chef Aaron Carr prepared beef ribeye, both were 28 day wet and dry aged for workshop participants to compare.

What is dry ageing?

Ageing is a practice used in the meat industry to increase tenderness, usually the ageing period is about 5-14 days. The practice of holding meat for a longer period of time, more than 14 days, in controlled conditions of temperature and low humidity, allows more time for enzymes present naturally in the meat to cause further protein degradation to improve tenderness. There is also concentration of flavour due to moisture lost. Dry ageing can also produce meat with a distinctive flavour profile such as roast, buttery and nutty.

A value-added meat product

Sheep meat that has been dry aged can attract a 20-30 per cent premium compared to wet aged sheep meat. For beef, dry aged product is typically double the price of a wet aged equivalent cut.

Minh Ha from the University of Melbourne presented results from an experiment using Australian and Japanese consumers. Both consumer types preferred dry aged meat to wet aged meat when aged for the same period of time. Subsequent laboratory testing confirmed higher concentrations of volatile substances in dry aged beef, which explains the different flavour profile.

Although the length of the ageing period is probably the most important aspect, Tim Burvill, co-owner of Melbourne and Adelaide steakhouses A Hereford Beefstouw and managing director of South Australian Cattle Co., concluded that dry ageing is only part of the process to further enhance the high quality beef to his restaurant customers.

Long Huynh from MLA commented that dry ageing also comes at a cost due to capital investment, weight loss from evaporation and trimming, and extra processing steps and monitoring. These all need to be accounted for including target market when deciding to undertake dry ageing as a value adding strategy.

Six panel members standing in front of Yarri restaurant
The dry ageing workshop panel (L-R) Meat & Livestock Australia’s Long Huynh; A Hereford Beefstouw steakhouses’ Tim Burvill; Norlane Trading’s Steve Bonney; University of Melbourne’s Melindee Hastie; DPIRD’s Robin Jacob; and University of Melbourne’s Minh Ha

Value-adding to mutton

The effect of dry ageing on mutton from older ewes was another area of interest. Presenter Melindee Hastie from the University of Melbourne, who is completing a PhD on the dry ageing of mutton, agreed that mutton is not like lamb, but can be a very versatile and tasty meat if processed and cooked in a way that enhances mutton attributes. Her project examined a number of cuts and cooking methods to create a range of high quality dishes from mutton utilising the whole carcass.

For more information contact Robin Jacob, senior research scientist, South Perth on +61(0)8 9368 3470

2019 bushfire season: are you ready?

a bushfire
Hot and dry conditions across WA are likely to result in more frequent and severe bushfires

The upcoming bushfire season is predicted to be one of the worst on record, with hot, dry conditions across the State.

Given the higher than normal potential for bushfires, it’s important that animal livestock owners adequately plan how they will keep their animals safe this bushfire season.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) website contains a range of information on practical ways you can prepare for animal welfare before emergencies, such as bushfires, some of which is outlined below.

Start preparing now

Maintaining firebreaks and managing fuel loads on your property is vital, but these actions shouldn’t be your only bushfire preparations. It’s important that you prepare specifically for the safety of your animals, including livestock, horses and companion animals during a fire.

  1. Develop an emergency plan that covers the major hazards that could impact on your family, animals, and property. Your plan should include notes about:
  • What your triggers are for evacuation or moving livestock to safer areas (e.g. high risk days, emergency alerts).
  • Which animals to evacuate, and for those unable to be evacuated, how they will best be managed and sheltered to ensure their safety and survival.
  • Evacuation routes from your property.
  • Transport options for large and small animals.
  • Options for agisting or boarding animals, and
  • How you will maintain containment (e.g. fencing) and provision of food, water and shelter for your animals after a bushfire has passed.

Even if you don’t write out a plan, make sure you and members of your household/staff have a 5 minute chat about your plan during an emergency- you may not always be at your property or accessible when an emergency strikes, so it’s important other people know your plan.

  1. Prepare your property for emergencies:
  • Ensure access to large volumes of water, in case of fire. Know that mains-supplied services may be unavailable in, or immediately following, an emergency.
  • Purchase emergency fodder and food supplies and store them in a safe place.
  • Install internal gates to move livestock quickly between paddocks.
  • Install sprinkler systems in pig and poultry sheds.
  • Mark gates, food and water locations on a map of your property, and ensure the map is located in an easy to find place, in case somebody else has to move your animals, and
  • Remove rugs and synthetic halters from horses on high fire-risk days, as these can often burn or melt.
horses grazing in a paddock
Remove rugs and synthetic halters from horses on high fire-risk days
  1. In an emergency situation it’s important that livestock and companion animals can be identified in case they become lost. To be best prepared:
  • Ensure microchip details for companion animals and horses are up-to-date, and
  • Ensure your NLIS and PIC details, and insurance records, are up-to-date and kept where you can quickly find them.

How DPIRD is preparing

DPIRD supports local government to provide animal welfare services during major emergencies. These services, outlined in the State Support Plan: Animal Welfare in Emergencies (Interim), help livestock and animal owners appropriately care for their animals during an emergency.

DPIRD’s Emergency Management and Animal Welfare teams recently tested their readiness for the upcoming bushfire season by participating in Exercise EQUUS with representatives from:

  • Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES)
  • WA Police Force
  • Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA)
  • Department of Communities
  • The WA Local Government Association (WALGA)
  • State Emergency Management Committee (SEMC)
  • Australian Veterinary Association
  • Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale
  • WA Horse Council
people talking in a workshop setting
Preparing for a range of bushfire scenarios at Exercise EQUUS

The Exercise involved working through a number of possible bushfire scenarios in a semi-rural setting, such as the Perth Hills. 

The scenarios focused on incidents involving animals, such as animals blocking evacuation routes and evacuation of wildlife parks, to enable all key organisations to understand their role in keeping animals safe during a bushfire.

For more information about bushfire plans for your local area, contact your local government.

Sheep Genetics forums

lambs running in a paddock
Genetic selection enables both wool and sheep producers to make positive and permanent genetic gains in their flock.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), in conjunction with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) hosted two regional Sheep Genetics forums in July.

Each year, MLA’s Sheep Genetics Team offers a Regional Forum in each state, and Western Australia’s forum was held in Perth on 11 July.

To fully benefit from the Sheep Genetics Team’s presence in WA and support commercial and sheep stud breeders, DPIRD’s Livestock Research and Industry Innovation unit took the opportunity to host additional forums in Katanning and Moora.

The forums, which attracted almost 100 producers, allowed participants to hear the latest updates in the analysis of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs), how to get the most out of their breeding program, and speak directly with Sheep Genetics staff.

Sessions covered the principles of genetic selection in sheep, the use of genetic tools to improve on-farm profit, genetics of the Australian sheep flock, the evolving world of genetics, applying the latest developments on farm, arming your genetics tool kit, and developing a genetic action plan.

Genetic selection enables both wool and sheep producers to make positive and permanent genetic gains in their flock. Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV) are the most effective tool to help producers improve genetic gain within their flocks and across the sheep industry. ASBVs aim to predict the differences in the performance of progeny for each trait, to better understand the genetic merit of the animal.

The ASBVs produced by Sheep Genetics are calculated from a combination of pedigree information, individual performance information, progeny performance information and, in some breeds, from genomic information.

The differences in progeny enable us to select the top performers and keep them in our flocks for future breeding goals and improvements. The indexes calculated within the LAMBPLAN and MERINOSELECT databases make selection decisions easier by balancing and weighting ASBVs into a single figure for different production systems for a particular breed.

Sheep Genetics are constantly improving the LAMBPLAN and MERINOSELECT database analyses to increase the accuracy of the genetic evaluation and usefulness of tools available to producers. A summary of these changes can be found on the Sheep Genetics website.

DPIRD is committed to supporting the adoption and use of ASBVs and encourages producers to keep up-to-date with these, to understand why the breeding values and index rankings of some animals may have changed.

For more information, visit DPIRD’s Genetic selection and using ASBVs webpage or contact Rebecca Butcher, livestock development officer, Moora on +61 (0)8 9651 0540.