Live sheep trade could ship year-round under proposed option

Zach RelphCountryman
DAWR are proposing four shipping options for Middle East live sheep voyages.
Camera IconDAWR are proposing four shipping options for Middle East live sheep voyages. Credit: Cally Dupe

The Federal animal welfare regulator has put forward four shipping options for Australian live sheep voyages to the Middle East, leaving the door ajar to keep the trade open without enforcing a northern summer ban.

Last Friday, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources revealed its proposed policy options for Middle East-bound live sheep exports in a new 18-page industry discussion paper.

The options include:

— A three-month pause “during the hottest period of the northern summer”, with industry to be consulted on the “most appropriate months to be included in the prohibition”.

— Apply this year’s prohibition period from June 1 to September 22, leaving the trade open for more than eight months per year.

— Adopt a revised heat stress risk assessment model, with risk settings based on heat stress thresholds or agreed animal welfare indicators, which could prohibit or substantially reducing exports from May to September, inclusive.

— No prohibition and live sheep exports to, or through the Middle East, will be permitted 12 months of the year.

The proposal to allow Middle East-bound voyages year-round is offering renewed confidence to WA sheep producers about the embattled trade’s future.

Walebing sheep producer Michael Humphry endorsed the fourth option to allow sheep shipping to the Middle East for 12 months of the year.

Mr Humphry — who sold 611 head on to the Al Messilah which departed Fremantle last month — said the trade’s future needed to be shored up to promote it as a viable sector.

Walebing sheep producer Michael Humphrey is endorsing the fourth option to allow sheep shipping to the Middle East for 12 months of the year.
Camera IconWalebing sheep producer Michael Humphrey is endorsing the fourth option to allow sheep shipping to the Middle East for 12 months of the year. Credit: Mogens Johansen

The uncertainty is still causing people to lose confidence in the industry, especially among international customers,

he said.

“Any interruption to the trade ignores the research work that LiveCorp are doing and the recent efforts the trade are making to minimise the mortality risk.”

DAWR, which defines the northern hemisphere summer from May to October, reported in the paper that allowing the live sheep trade to operate year-round would have “the least impact” on the industry.

However, it noted that evidence from past voyages indicated allowing voyages to the Middle East for 12 months of the year posed “significant risk of a heat stress incident”.

Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie encouraged sheep farmers and industry stakeholders to respond to the paper’s shipping proposals before consultation ends on October 28.

Rural Export and Trading WA shipped 54,390 sheep aboard the Al Messilah from Fremantle Port on September 23 to mark the industry’s resumption, after a halt from June 1 to September 22 concluded.

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