Live export relief as new cattle density rules delayed

Cattle exporters have been granted an 11th-hour reprieve after being told yesterday tougher new rules that reduce stocking densities up to 15 per cent will not come into effect from today as originally planned.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources told cattle exporters yesterday the Australian Meat and Livestock Industry (Export of Livestock by Sea) Order 2019, had not been signed and so would not be in place as planned on June 1.

However, the department said it still planned to implement the proposed new requirements, a key recommendation of the Review of Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock completed this year, and would inform the industry of the new date shortly, providing 10 working days’ notice.

Reduced stocking densities, based on a number of factors including the length of the voyage and weight of cattle, reduce profitability, with cattle producers wearing the brunt.

Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association chief executive Emma White said more careful consideration of the implications were welcome, as the reduced stocking densities had the potential to cause a big financial impact on cattle producers.

She cited an example from the Australian Live Exporters Council, which said a ship normally carrying 5000 lighter cattle to Indonesia may need carry as few as 4300 head, increasing freight costs by $20 an animal, which would be passed on to cattle producers.

WA Livestock Exporters Association chairman John Cunnington said it was sensible to delay the signing of the order, given the department hadn’t yet assessed the “alternate stocking density” applications.

Alternate stocking density applications relate to voyages of less than 10 days for exporters that have a proved strong animal welfare record, and mean the reduction in cattle carried, relative to space, is not as severe.

However, they must be applied for by exporters, and the department still hadn’t come to a conclusion or assessed any applications, he said.

“I expect the secretary of DAWR has been waiting to discuss this with the new agriculture minister as it is quite a major change for the industry,” Mr Cunnington said.

Though welcome, the move had caused disruption.

For example, Halleen Australasian Livestock Traders, where Mr Cunnington works, has two shipments departing within the week, and had planned for fewer cattle under lower densities.

“We are now trying to source extra cattle to fill remaining space aboard the vessel, and I’m sure other exporters would be looking at the same thing,” he said.