Industry update: live sheep export #5

Page last updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2018 - 11:14am

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is continuing to monitor and respond to changes in the live export environment which impact the Western Australian sheep industry.

Live Export Sheep Industry Reference Group

The live export industry reference group held its fourth meeting earlier this month to discuss latest developments and guide DPIRD activity to support the WA sheep industry. The group met with officers from the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) to discuss the Heat Stress Risk Assessment draft report, previewed the flock modelling work and discussed potential research and development priorities for DPIRD.

Attending members included DPIRD chair Bruce Mullan, producer and industry representatives Murray Hall of Brookton, John Wallace of Esperance, Bindi Murray of Woodanilling, and Dean Hubbard with executive support from DPIRD’s Mandy Curnow.

DPIRD is undertaking comprehensive flock modelling in order to predict the impact on the WA flock structure and turnoff. The modelling will investigate changes in; an increase in the proportion of wethers against breeding ewes from 7% to 15%; changing the mating type of ewes from 60% to Merino sires and 40% to meat sires to 50:50 or 65:35 to determine the impact on lamb slaughter, wool production and whole flock size over the next five to ten years. The modelling is expected to be complete in autumn next year.

2018 WA Lambing Survey

DPIRD has completed a special short survey of 178 producers, covering more than 660,000 ewes, to assess the number of lambs available for turn off and flock trends. Fourteen grower groups across the state canvassed members to contribute their 2018 lamb marking data.

The survey was in response to reports of significantly lower marking rates for the 2018 season and carried out in liaison with grower groups and the Live Export Reference Group.

2018 seasonal conditions have been mixed, including a late start in many areas and some areas of the state having not only a late start but decile 1 or 2 rainfall across the growing season. Lamb marking rates are highly variable in any season across different regions and rainfall zones. Although some flocks have seen significant drop in lambing rates, most producers still achieved strong lambing results in challenging times.

Average marking rates were 90% for Merino flocks, 91% for crossbred flocks and 108% for meat flocks. The majority of flocks included in the survey were Merino, with Merino marking rates significantly higher in the cereal sheep zone than the medium rainfall zone. Later winter lambing flocks in the medium rainfall zone showed higher rates than earlier lambing flocks, while earlier lambing flocks in the cereal zone showed better results than later lambing flocks.

It is estimated that the reduction in lamb production across the WA flock will be in the order of four to seven per cent.

More detailed information is available from the DPIRD website

Heat Stress Risk Assessment (HSRA) Technical Reference Panel draft report

The Heat Stress Risk Assessment (HSRA) Technical Reference Panel has released its draft report on heat stress risk in live sheep exports to the Middle East. This follows the McCarthy Review of conditions for the export of sheep to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer.

The draft report is now open to feedback and submissions to the panel until 31 January 2019.

The draft report makes eight recommendations. Some of these include:

  • a heat stress risk assessment framework focused on animal welfare, using the heat stress threshold to assess the risk of heat stress occurring in the various categories of sheep shipped from Australia, rather than assessing the risk of mortality.
  • using a wet bulb temperature welfare limit, that takes into account temperature and humidity, for exported sheep based on weight, breed, condition score, acclimatisation, fibre length and where they are sourced from.
  • the base space allowance for sea voyages should be determined by the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock, and then adjusted according to the HSRA.
  • that environmental conditions in the destination ports be taken into account, and recognise the ongoing need to measure and record environmental conditions accurately and at a sufficient number of relevant locations on board vessels to provide transparent monitoring and protection of livestock welfare.

DPIRD will further examine this draft report and its recommendations, and will make a submission through the consultation process.

Review of Australian Standards for Export of Livestock (ASEL)

A comprehensive national review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) is underway. These standards ensure livestock are fit for export and help to manage the risks to health and welfare during the voyage.

DPIRD has provided feedback on the Issues paper and draft standards as part of Stage 1 & Stage 2 of the Review. ASEL outlines the standards livestock must meet to ensure that they are fit for export. The review will have improved animal welfare outcomes for exported livestock and help in addressing community concerns regarding the welfare of exported livestock.

More information on the review is available from the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.