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July 23, 2019

ASEL Technical Advisory Committee release final review

As an Australian Livestock exporter motivated by outcomes, and frustrated by bureaucracy, we read with anticipation the latest release of the ASEL Advisory Committee that was released today

The Australian Standards for Export of Livestock set requirements livestock exporters must meet to ensure animals are fit to export from Australia, and their health and welfare is managed throughout the export voyage.

While the industry has been pushing for a review of ASEL for several years, the timeframe for this was brought forward following a current affairs programme showing example footage of poor animal welfare on one vessel. The independent Technical Advisory Committee undertaking the ASEL review has completed its review into sea transport (a review of air transport will follow later).

The ASEL review was undertaken to ensure the standards for live exports are fit-for-purpose and continue to be supported by the latest scientific research.

In developing its recommendations, the committee considered scientific literature, advice from a Stakeholder Reference Group and submissions provided through three rounds of public consultation, reports from independent observers and other relevant information.

The committee made 49 recommendations that address different parts of the standard; from sourcing and preparation, through to management of livestock on-board vessels.

The final report and government response are now available on the department’s website at Review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) – Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

From our perspective, the review is largely well considered and updates and clarifies some old standards.

Some of the positives from our perspective:

  • Giving Regional Veterinary Officers (the government’s people on the ground who actually understand livestock and the trade) back some of their responsibility in verifying declared loading weights and pregnancy status etc
  • Clarification of clear days and their application to individual animals, or lines of animals
  • Mortality report provided from pre-export quarantine prior to departure
  • Consideration given to voyage mortality on a  “per day” basis to accurately compare voyages of different length
  • No mention of Independent Observers – for long haul voyages, we already engage an Australian Government Accredited Vet to oversee, report and contribute to the success of the voyage. The current regime of adding an inexperienced observer to take photos and scribble in their notebook for A$45,000 per voyage is an insult to exporters with a clean record and even more of an insult to the trained professional vets.

Some of our concerns that we see an unnecessary and not contributing to outcomes :

  • Increase in space required for voyages beyond 10 days which will affect some short haul markets including Vietnam. This doesn’t affect Otway at the moment, but will add additional cost to exporting to important regional markets such as Vietnam(although they have flagged that this can revert to the current standards for exporters who can prove a good record)
  • The mandate to carry an additional 130% of contingency fodder (7 days instead of 3) when passing through the Suez Canal. Voyages to some ports in Israel, Turkey and Egypt on the other side of the Suez and comparable in length to other markets in the Middle East but now require additional fodder to be loaded, or the ship to be short loaded to meet this requirement which previously required the exporter to have an outcomes based Long Haul Management Plan approved by the Department.
  • The requirement that the Heat Stress Risk Assessment (HSRA) model be applied to all voyages crossing the equator. This makes sense for Bos Taurus beef or dairy cattle from Southern Australia, but is a time consuming impost that will serve little value for a shipment of Brahmans travelling from Darwin to Ho Chi Minh!

Otway remains committed to continuous outcomes driven improvement throughout the livestock supply chain. This includes hand picking stockmen and vets and arming them with additional monitoring equipment and information to enable tailored care to different livestock and parts of the ship, adjusting feed rations and induction protocols to match the cargo and the season and developing feedback loops from the end user in market, all the way back to the producer.

More regulation and paperwork gives me a headache and it is frustrating to know some of this over-reach could have been avoided, but it does undoubtedly confirm that Australia continues to the be the leader by far in livestock production and export – hopefully we can remain competitive enough for our trading partners to experience and learn from this as well.