AS hot and dry conditions, and fast deteriorating feed, takes its toll on the condition of stock, authorities are stepping up the monitoring of the health status of cattle coming into abattoirs and saleyards.
Producer leaders say animal welfare is an area where the beef industry must be on top of its game with no exceptions.
Know the fit-to-load criteria thoroughly and take no chances is the message.
The consequences of slip ups on fit-to-load are extremely costly at both an individual producer level and at a broader industry level, Cattle Council of Australia director David Hill said.
Agents association head Andy Madigan agreed, saying welfare groups were keeping an increasingly close eye on cattle coming into saleyards.
Mr Hill said there was already a push for new laws requiring veterinarians to certify each load, which would be an unsustainable cost to the industry, so it was vital no weight was given to the case for that.
Both men warned not only producers but carriers and agents they could be fined if animals under their watch were deemed not fit-for-loading.
Where animals are ruled not fit to load by on-site veterinarians, they are destroyed at the expense of the producer.
A key point appears to be some producers believe if any animal is walking it is fit to load but that is not the case.
“If animals are caused increased pain from being transported, they need to be kept on the farm and treated,” Mr Hill said.
“If they can’t be treated successfully they need to be humanely destroyed.
“It’s always the producer’s responsibility and if the production sector is not on the front foot with this, the consequences could be severe to our industry.
“The risk is simply too great to allow yourself or the whole of industry to be exposed.”
Mr Hill said it was not just the hot and dry weather but the increasingly strong push from authorities to place more and more scrutiny on animal welfare that made the issue so critical.
“Authorities will always go over and above in this area and as an industry we have to adhere to these standards,” he said.
Mr Hill pointed to Meat and Livestock Australia’s fit-to-load guide, which says an animal is not strong enough to undertake the journey if it:
- cannot walk normally or is not bearing weight on all legs
- is severely emaciated or visibly dehydrated
- is suffering from severe visible distress or injury
- is in a condition that could cause it increased pain or distress during transport
- is blind in both eyes
- is in late pregnancy
Australian Lot Feeders Association president Tess Herbert said the availability of this document with its photographic examples and its widespread use on farms, where it was often kept pinned up near loading ramps, had made an enormous difference in her sector.
“I’ve heard no recent reports of issues with cattle not fit to load but in the past it was an issue and that is why ALFA levies were directed to this document,” she said.
“Our message would be make sure this document is used, this is an area we can’t get wrong.”