Compliance key to Saudi live sheep trade

EXCLUSIVE Cally DupeCountryman
Livestock exporters can start the trade again with Saudi.
Camera IconLivestock exporters can start the trade again with Saudi. Credit: Sharon Smith

Australian farmers hoping to export sheep to Saudi Arabia for the first time in nearly a decade have been urged to vaccinate against scabby mouth this lambing season or risk jeopardising the newly reopened market.

WA’s $136 million live export industry was celebrating last week after the Kingdom confirmed it would reopen the export pathway for the first time since 2012.

Saudi Arabia currently imports more than eight million livestock animals a year and was once Australia’s third-biggest Middle Eastern market for live sheep, importing 576,000 sheep worth $55 million in 2009.

The Middle Eastern powerhouse cut the live export trade with Australia in 2012 because it was concerned the Federal Government’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System requirements would impinge on its sovereignty.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

Corrigin sheep farmer Steven Bolt.
Camera IconCorrigin sheep farmer Steven Bolt. Credit: The West Australian

Saudi Arabia has since been importing an estimated eight million head a year from unregulated markets like Sudan and Eritrea.

Australian live export industry figureheads this week said a successful resumption of the trade to Saudi would hinge on Aussie farmers’ ability to comply with various export protocols, including vaccinating for scabby mouth.

To access the Saudi market, producers must have an active scabby guard and enterotoxaemia (Clostridium perfringens type D) vaccination program as well as adequate records to verify it.

Previously, the Saudi protocol was for two scabby mouth vaccinations but that has changed to one.

Corrigin sheep producer and The Livestock Collective director Steven Bolt said Saudi Arabia had the potential to again be a significant market for Australian sheep producers, who needed to be aware of vaccination requirements.

He said the National Livestock Identification System and producer compliance under the Livestock Producer Assurance would be critical for the market.

“It is a very positive move for the WA sheep industry to secure access to the Saudi market, but the protocols that growers have to adhere to mean that record keeping of their vaccinations will have to be compliant,” he said.

“I would urge farmers that want to access that market to make sure the vaccination process is correct.

“Vaccinating against scabby mouth is important for access to all of our markets but there is also an on-farm benefit with the increase in confinement and lot feeding.”

Genstock veterinarian Michylla Seal — who specialises in ovine reproduction and health — urged producers to vaccinate with at least a basic 3 in 1 vaccine, Eryvac and Scabiguard at lamb marking, and then give a booster 3 in 1 vaccine at weaning.

Dr Seal said with the current market value of sheep, the investment of approximately $1.50 per head to do all three vaccines at marking and then the booster at weaning was not a huge expense.

“If you are getting a conservative $150 per lamb, you only need to save one sheep per 100 to cover the costs of vaccinating,” she said.

“The main things you need to vaccinate for, at a minimum, is a basic 3 and 1 to cover pulpy kidney, cheesy gland and tetanus and Eryvac for Erysipelas polyarthritis.

“The other one is Scabiguard to protect sheep against scabby mouth.

“These are important not only for access to Saudi Arabia, but for any feedlotting activity and the general health of those animals.”

Ms Seal also urged producers to make sure they were storing their vaccines effectively — in the fridge — and to keep good records.

If you are getting a conservative $150 per lamb, you only need to save one sheep per 100 to cover the costs of vaccinating.

Michylla Seal

The vaccination push could see the resurrection of the popular slogan “scratch to catch the market”, which was promoted widely in the 1990s to encourage producers to vaccinate against scabby mouth.

While the disease is generally a minor health issue, it has in the past been used as an excuse to refuse Australian live shipments.

The campaign sticker from the 1990s.
Camera IconThe campaign sticker from the 1990s.

In the late 1990s, Saudi Arabia rejected several Australian shipments due to scabby mouth.

In 2003, nearly 6000 sheep on the Cormo Express died amid claims they had scabby mouth before the Australian Government gifted the rest of the shipment to Eritrea.

The animals, loaded at Fremantle and destined for Saudi Arabia, were refused by a series of nations because of claims the load was infected with scabby mouth.

Scabby mouth has little effect on a sheep’s general health but can infect humans if cuts or wounds come into contact with the virus.

Saudi Arabia is one of the only markets that requires the additional verification of vaccination records.

Shipments to Saudi Arabai are not expected until after the three month northern summer moratorium from June 1 to September 22.

A new Export Advisory Notice (2021-05) has been published on the DAWE website outlining the finalised requirements.


  • Animals have been vaccinated against scabby mouth using a modified live virus at least 30 days prior to the date of export.
  • The vaccine must be administered at least 30 days before export, consistent with the product information (for the Scabiguard vaccine) from the vaccine manufacturer. Where sheep have been vaccinated more than 12 months prior to the date of export they must not have resided on properties that do not have an annual vaccination program for any continuous period of more than 12 months, since their most recent vaccination.
  • Animals must have been vaccinated at least 30 days before the date of export against enterotoxaemia (Clostridium perfringens type D)
  • Producers must keep records of who performed the vaccinations, locations, identifications (NLIS tags)


The vaccinator must make a written record of the following:

a) the vaccinator’s name and address

b) alternatively, the vendor’s name and address

c) the address and property identification code of the property from which the sheep originated

d) the date when, and the place where, the vaccination was carried out

e) the system used to identify each sheep that was vaccinated (for example, property of origin tags, radio frequency identification tags, eartags), and the number or other identifier used for each sheep

f) details about the vaccine that was administered: the product name, the batch number, expiry date or date of manufacture

g) confirmation the vaccine was stored, handled and administered strictly in accordance with the manufacturer's directions

h) confirmation the vaccinator has retained each invoice relating to the purchase of the vaccine used to vaccinate these sheep and can provide a copy to the holder of the livestock export licence within five days of request

The vendor of the sheep must give the following document to the holder of the livestock export licence

a) For each mob of sheep, a declaration by the vaccinator stating that they have vaccinated the sheep and that they prepared and retained a written vaccination record, and that the information in the retained vaccination record is true and complete

b) A declaration that where sheep have been vaccinated more than 12 months prior to the date of export they have not resided on properties that do not have an annual vaccination program for any continuous period of greater than 12 months, since their most recent vaccination, and that the vendor has evidence to support the declaration in its entirety.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails