Nutrition & Animal Health

King Island farmers need a Need for Feed port decision

Sheep Central, April 29, 2024

Need for Feed chairman Graham Cockerell and his dog Tilly are ready to truck fodder for King Island farmers.

MORE than 500 tonnes of fodder bound for drought-affected livestock producers on King Island has passed biosecurity checks, but Victorian authorities are yet to decide what port it will be shipped from.

Tasmania’s peak farming body Tasfarmers has called for federal or state intervention to ensure the drought-breaking fodder shipment – plus 200 tonnes of cattle pellets — is shipped from Victoria to King Island as soon as possible.

Shipment organiser, the Lions Australia project Need for Feed, wants to ship the fodder via Apollo Bay and Tasfarmers president, Ian Sauer, has claimed that the shipment has been blocked, displaying a lack of understanding of the dire situation facing King Island farmers.

However, Sheep Central has been told the Victorian authorities, including the Colac Otway Shire and the State Government were working on deciding which port the shipment will shipped from.

“This is the tail wagging the dog, our understanding is the Victorian Government will cover the cost of moving the feed to a viable port if needed,” Mr Sauer said.

Need for Feed chairman Graham Cockerell said the charity favoured moving the shipment via Apollo Bay rather than other options because it was the shortest road distance from where it is stored near Swan Hill, and the Victorian port is also the least distance from the King Island port of Grassy.

Mr Cockerell said the cost difference to the Need for Feed charity between shipping the fodder via Apollo Bay versus other ports is about $70,000.

“Apollo Bay is about 150kms closer to us by road and 150kms closer by sea.”

Mr Cockerell said the biosecurity paperwork had been done for the shipment and he was looking to move it “as soon as possible.”

“We crossed the final (biosecurity) hurdle this morning so we wasn’t it happen as soon as possible, but by mid-May.”

Mr Cockerell said Need for Feed was aiming to ship 500 tonnes of fodder and 200 tonnes of cattle pellets valued at about $350,000 “for starters” and was trying to get the Tasmanian Government to fund more. He said the charity has been trying to buy hay in Tasmania for the King Island farmers, but it was scarce.

Sheep Central has been told the Colac Otway Shire is still considering Need for Feed’s recent application to ship the fodder through Apollo Bay. The council has been talking to the King Island Council and Tasmanian State Government, which was discussing port departure options with the Victorian Government. The Colac Otway Council was approached for comment.

TasFarmers said after the Black Summer Fire in Victoria, the King Island community sent 700 bales of hay and silage to farmers in New South Wales and Victoria, and those farmers now hope to return their generosity and kindness by sending feed to desperate Farmers on the Island.

Mr Sauer said the feed bound for the Island is ready to go, “but a decision not to allow the feed and fodder to leave from Apollo Bay is a disaster, a selfish un-Australian decision.”

“Farmers on King Island are experiencing some of the worst dry conditions in the last 100 years.

“Farmers are at their wit’s end and their psychological well-being is seriously threatened, not to mention their livelihoods,” he said.

“This is a six-hour boat trip which in some cases will save a lifetime of work.

“Apollo Bay is the closest mainland commercial port to King Island,” Mr Sauer said.

“Other ports don’t provide the best access for the immediate purposes of shipping critical supplies of fodder to address animal welfare concerns and drought relief on King Island.

“We have every part of this supply chain being donated, or done at cost, NRE doing seed sampling, donated fodder through the Lions Club charity need for feed, land transport, sea transport, the only ones not playing ball is the port of Apollo Bay,” Mr Sauer said.

Mr Sauer said this is an emergency, and the control of the port at Apollo Bay should be taken over by either the state or federal governments to resolve the impasse.

“All of the correct protocols are being taken with biosecurity tests for weed contamination being expedited.

“This crisis is an exceptional circumstance warranting immediate action to mitigate the unprecedented fodder shortage and animal welfare crisis on King Island.”


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