Sheep live-ex ban extended until mid-September

The moratorium on sheep live exports to the Middle East has been extended until September 22 by the federal Agriculture Department on grounds of heat stress risk.

Australian Livestock Exporters' Council is disappointed with the extension. It argues the heat risks are manageable and that conditions on Middle East voyages in September are comparable to those in May, when the trade is unrestricted.

In December last year the industry voluntarily imposed its own export moratorium, covering the hottest northern Summer months of June, July and August. The Department subsequently issued a formal ban on the trade during this period.

The Department said today that evidence shows the risk of heat stress for voyages departing Australia in the first three weeks of September is at least the equal of June, and sheep coming out of winter are not ready to depart.

"Sheep departing Australia up until mid-September are acclimatised to cooler Australian temperatures and therefore less heat tolerant than sheep departing in Australian summer or autumn months."

ALEC said it achieved high standards on shipments during May under climactic conditions similar to those of September.

"The sheep exports to the Middle East undertaken in May of this year achieved excellent animal welfare outcomes and record low mortalities using the new reduced stocking densities," said ALEC chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton.

"Similar animal welfare outcomes were expected for September shipments."

Middle East shipments from this year have to comply with exports requirements, which include:

  • Verification of the ship's pen air turnover
  • Heat stress management plan
  • Stocking sheep in accordance with an allometric formula or the heat stress assessment model - depending on which provides more space per animal
  • Collecting automated environmental data (wet bulb temperatures) and reporting to the department

Earlier this year, in response to an options paper issued by the Department, ALEC and other industry representatives had argued for a staggered re-opening to trade after the northern summer, so vessels bound for the hottest region of the Persian Gulf waited longer for cooler weather.

ALEC's proposed recommencement of sheep exports to the Red Sea from September 1 and to Persian Gulf from September 15.

Mr Harvey-Sutton said exporters were optimistic data from voyages under the regime would prove September voyages were viable.

"ALEC remains committed to ensuring that science and evidence dictates the departments future regulatory decisions regarding sheep exports to the Middle East," he said.

New laws for Live Ex Inspector-General

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie introduced legislation to parliament which will establish a permanent role for an independent Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports.

ALEC said the Inspector-General would support the industry's commitment to improved animal welfare.

"We have called for the introduction of an Inspector General to oversee independence and cultural change in our industry, for both exporters and the industry regulator," Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

Former Agriculture Minister David Littleproud had established an interim Inspector-General late last year, which reinstated the regulator to the role after is was abolished in 2013 by then Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

The Inspector-General is tasked with auditing and reviewing the Department's regulation of livestock exports.

Senator McKenzie said the Inspector-General provides promotes improvement to regulatory practice and enhances the industry's social licence.

"Australians and the industry need to be confident the independent live export regulator," she said.

"The Inspector-General will oversee the Department of Agriculture's regulation of live exports and will increase transparency of Australia's livestock export management system.

"This is about building an effective regulatory culture that stands the test of time."