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Feedback on sheep export heat stress model sought by Federal Government

by Sheep Central, 14 September 2018

The RSPCA’s altered image from Awassi Express footage, showing what a 17.5pc stocking density reduction would look like.

FEEDBACK on a new heat stress model for Australia’s live sheep export trade is being sought by the Federal Government.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud is encouraging industry stakeholders to make submissions on an issues paper released yesterday.

The recent McCarthy Review, the advent of a new heat stress model and reduced stocking densities on live sheep shipments to the Middle East during the northern summer was prompted by the release of video footage showing dead and dying sheep in overheated conditions on shipments earlier this year.

New loading density rules have already prompted some exporters to review their northern summer Middle East operations and at least one exporter has asked for an exemption from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. Consideration of a new heat stress model has been welcomed by the Australian Veterinary Association, Animals Australia and the RSPCA.

The McCarthy Review in May this year recommended that the industry move to an assessment model based on animal welfare rather than mortality, using a heat stress method that could potentially reduce stocking densities by 18-79pc. Mr Littleproud then said he accepted the 23 McCarthy recommendations, but that further testing and consultation was needed to understand and implement the review’s fourth recommendation on heat stress risk assessment.

McCarthy’s Recommendation 4 said that, as an interim measure, the risk be set at a 2percent probability of 5pc of the sheep becoming affected by heat stress (Heat stress score 3), with settings reviewed by the ASEL Review Technical Advisory Committee at the end of this northern hemisphere summer period and again, annually by an independent taskforce.

Mr Littleproud said the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will develop a heat stress risk assessment model based on animal welfare outcomes.

He said the McCarthy Review’s heat stress recommendations will be tested with the assistance of an expert technical panel across the animal welfare, heat stress and animal science fields and an Australian Maritime Safety Authority representative.

“Interested stakeholders should provide their views on assessing heat stress risk in the sheep trade during the northern summer, and to identify relevant research and information.

“The HSRA Panel will work with the Technical Advisory Committee undertaking the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) review,” he said.

Stakeholders can provide their feedback to the issues paper via the ‘Have Your Say’ platform at haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/hsra-review. Submissions to the panel will close 19 October 2018. There will be further consultation on the findings and proposals to come from the review and consultation, and the new HSRA settings will be drafted in 2018 for 2019 implementation.​

Following the McCarthy Review, live sheep exporters were required to comply with the following new conditions From 1 May to 31 October:

Reduced stocking densities

Independent observers on each boat, sending back photo and written evidence daily

Independent auditing of pen air turnover (ventilation) readings to confirm the data entered into the industry heat stress risk assessment model is accurate only using vessels that have automatic watering arrangements installed for each sheep deck reducing the notifiable mortality level for sheep exported by sea to the Middle East from 2pc to 1pc.​

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