Heat limit rules ‘could end live exports’

Zach RelphCountryman
Sheep Producers Australia was one of the few industry groups to welcome the draft.
Camera IconSheep Producers Australia was one of the few industry groups to welcome the draft. Credit: WA News

The live sheep industry could die if a proposed heat-stress risk assessment for shipments en route to the Middle East comes to fruition, key industry figures have warned.

They say the trade would be rendered unviable under recommended changes to shipping standards made in a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources draft report.

Released last Thursday, the document called for the wet bulb temperature on livestock carriers to the Middle East to not exceed 28C.

The independent panel also proposed defining the northern hemisphere summer from May to October, instead of June to August.

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If implemented, it could make the live sheep export industry’s self-imposed three-month moratorium from June 1 next year, announced earlier this month, redundant.

The draft’s suggestions have been heavily criticised by live sheep representatives in the wake of its release, with Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook among those to dispute the proposed wet bulb temperature.

The York-based farmer said the heat-risk standard, alongside the extended six-month northern summer definition, would kill WA’s live export trade if imposed by DAWR.

“If we end up with the six-month hiatus, that’s the end of the trade,” he said.

“No one will be able to sustain the infrastructure under that new proposed regulation.

“It is at a point where they won’t have to ban it, they will just regulate it to a point that no one will be able to do it.”

Wet bulb temperature is defined as an environmental measure dependent on dry bulb temperature and humidity.

It provides a temperature measure which is adjusted for the cooling effect of evaporation and air movement.

The Liberal member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson, a Katanning sheep producer, said the mooted heat-risk standards would be tough for exporters to adhere to.

“It creates serious issues, because at any time of the year when crossing the equator, the 28C requirement will be difficult to meet,” he said.

“I urge sheep producers from WA to contribute to the public comment period and have their say.”

Kojonup farmer Neal O’Halloran said the swirling political debate in the fallout since the Awassi Express footage emerged had hampered sheep producers.

The sheep and grain grower said politicians needed to help the industry provide certainty on the trade’s future to promote long-term decision-making among farmers.

“The political factor will be the death of the live sheep industry,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“I don’t have any confidence in the trade holding on ... but I’d like to see common sense prevail.

“We need to be given the certainty to adjust out business accordingly and plan for the future.”

Sheep Producers Australia was one of the few industry groups to welcome the heat-stress risk assessment draft.

SPA chairman Chris Mirams said the industry must commit to science-based animal welfare regulation to underpin the trade’s longevity.

“Changing the way our industry operates, from measuring mortality rates to measuring animal welfare, requires a great depth of science and understanding,” he said.

“This is an important first step in starting to build this understanding.”

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