Standards need work, says WALTA

Kate PollardCountryman

There are still problems that need to be addressed before new national standards for transporting livestock can be met, according to the WA Livestock Transport Association (WALTA).

From July 1, Victoria, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania will comply with land transport standards and guidelines for 11 species of animals, including cattle, sheep and pigs.

WA will comply with the changes from January 1 next year and Queensland will follow later.

The standards cover the transportation chain - from road, rail and shipping vehicles and facilities to loading and unloading procedures, animals fit to load, allowable time of water and humane destruction of injured or ill animals.

WALTA president Grant Robins said the industry had been heavily involved in the new standards and record keeping was found to be the biggest problem so far.

"We need to have the tools available so we can comply as far as the paperwork side goes," Mr Robins said.

"National vendor declarations need to include time off feed and water and we need a form for trip plans for journeys longer than 24 hours."

Water in selling pens at saleyards, particularly sheep saleyards, also needed to be addressed. Sheep over six months can be off water for 48 hours and then have to spend 36 hours on feed and water before being transported.

Mr Robins said this could create bottlenecks at Muchea where water was only available in holding pens and not each selling pen, which was originally promised.

He said it would also create a problem at Katanning's existing saleyard but the new facility, expected to open mid next year, would have water available in each pen, allowing sheep to be loaded straight away.

Mr Robins said most cattle saleyards had adequate water.

The standards will put responsibility onto all parts of the supply chain - from farmers to stock agents and saleyards - and will cover goats, poultry, horses, camels, alpaca, buffalo, deer, emus and ostriches.

"Most of the standards aren't too bad and the biggest change people will have to get used to will be on-the-spot fines," Mr Robins said.

While the regulations need to go through WA's parliamentary council, the Act allows penalties up to $20,000. Infringements are likely to be around $400 but a breach could be similar to pig and poultry regulations which don't exceed $2500.

Department of Agriculture and Food principal veterinary officer Richard Norris said land transport was the first area industry was tackling under the Australian Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Animals.

The regulations are replacing codes of practice written 20 years ago. Under development are welfare standards and guidelines for on-farm sheep and cattle production.

Dr Norris said the new standards had been promoted over the last few years.

"The onus has primarily been on transporters but there are some responsibilities on producers, one of the key ones being to ensure they present animals that are fit for the intended journey," he said.

"It's an area most producers are doing well but there are a few who are getting rid of animals that are not suitable for the journey and such animals need to be destroyed on the farm."

An animal is not fit to load if it is severely dehydrated, blind, emaciated, unable to walk, in late pregnancy, injured or in distress.

Dr Norris said DAFWA and RSPCA inspectors would police the standards and guidelines.

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Transporting tips *

·Identify all people responsible for the care, management and handling of livestock at all stages of the transport process and make them aware of their responsibilities.

·Ensure adequate planning and contingency measures are put in place to minimise risk to livestock welfare.

·Ensure livestock transport vehicles and facilities for holding, loading and unloading are constructed, maintained and operated to minimise risk to livestock welfare.

·Livestock selected for transport must be fit for the intended journey.

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