Industry update: live sheep export suspension

Page last updated: Thursday, 27 July 2023 - 4:14pm

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The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is working to support Western Australia’s sheep industry following the recent suspension of Emanuel Exports’ live export licence and the decision of Livestock Shipping Services to halt shipments for the northern summer.

The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) suspended the live export licence of Emanuel Exports on 22 June, leaving about 55,000 sheep in the supply chain, held at feedlots in Baldivis.  The sheep were scheduled for export to the Middle East last Sunday, 24 June. There is sufficient feed for these sheep and there are no immediate animal welfare concerns.

These sheep have been sourced from more than 200 properties across the State and will not be returned to farms due to the unacceptable biosecurity risk from keeping animals of varying health risk status together (eg. virulent footrot, ovine Johne’s disease, scabby mouth and lice). 

WA Government response

The WA Government is working with processors to facilitate options for the sheep currently being held at Baldivis.  It is understood key processors are open to processing the sheep, although this would be a commercial arrangement between the parties.

The department recognises the importance of the live export trade to producers’ businesses and has put together a dedicated team to coordinate an effective response. The department continues to liaise with the Federal regulator to stay informed of the latest developments, as they occur.

This week, the department is holding a follow-up meeting with representative producers who first met in May to update and discuss the impact of the current situation. The meeting will include DPIRD Director General Ralph Addis and the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Daryl Quinlivan.  The meeting will provide a detailed update on the regulatory changes and discussion of industry implications in both the immediate and medium term.

The department estimates up to 300,000 WA sheep had been destined for live export over coming months and producers may need to pursue other market avenues for their animals. In the medium and longer term, producers will be considering other options as the regulatory and market environment changes.

DPIRD will provide regular information updates to assist the sector to understand these changing conditions, reduce uncertainties and support producers’ decision-making. The department will focus its immediate efforts in modelling feed requirements and feed reserves to satisfy alternate market and processing specifications. The department will work with industry to model the financial impact and options for producers and longer term possible changes to the structure of the WA flock. Other work will focus on opportunities to develop alternative value chains in the WA sheep meat industry, as well as to continue research to increase the value of sheep meat.

Seasonal impact

Sheep producers in eastern areas of the Great Southern and South Coast have been supplementary feeding sheep for several months, adding a complexity to the situation. Feed availability has become tight and expensive. The next four to six weeks will be crucial, as most shires in the south west land division have no areas with more than 500 kilograms per hectare of food on offer (FOO).

A DPIRD seasonal response group has been monitoring the impact of the season and liaising with industry for several weeks to ensure rural businesses are best equipped to navigate the season. A Season 2018 webpage has been set up with a range of technical information including feed budgeting, condition scoring, climate and weather forecasts. For the first time, producers will also have access to free food on offer (FOO) maps, which are updated weekly. There are also links to the CBH Feed Register and health and wellbeing websites.

The department will also be running a suite of Dry Season workshops in affected areas over coming weeks to discuss the latest modelling, information and tools to help producers make informed decisions about how best to manage their flock and their business.