The deaths of 46 cattle on a shipment of 3180 head delivered from Western Australia to China this month has exceeded the reportable mortality rate for long-haul journeys of one percent.
The mortality rate of 1.46 pc was self-reported during the journey by the exporter Phoenix, a subsidiary of Harmony Agriculture and Food Company, to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
HAAFCO chief executive officer Steve Meerwald said the exporter was still waiting for a full report from the onboard Government accredited vet to determine the cause but it was believed the deaths were the result of respiratory disease.
He said all cattle had recieved the appropriate health treatments and vaccines required under the protocol, but a month long-delay in the ship’s departure and challenging seasonal conditions during the quarantine period may have been contributing factors.
The shipment, which arrived in China last week, was Phoenix’s third shipment of Australian cattle to China. Mr Meerwald said the first in November last year of 2382 had a mortality loss of 5 head (0.21pc) and the second of 2398 in March this year also had a loss of 5 cattle, a mortality rate of 0.21pc.
The Cattle Council of Australia said it had received notification last Thursday that a shipment of Australian cattle to China had experienced a reportable mortality level of 1.4pc.
The council said it has been consulting with Department of Agriculture Water Resources (DAWR) to determine the timeline for an investigation into the death of 46 animals.
Cattle Council said it had also consulted with the exporter and had been advised that the deaths appeared to be a result of respiratory disease, however noted that an autopsy report was still needed to before an accurate determination of the cause could be made.
CCA president Howard Smith said the council supported the application of Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) to effectively mitigate any risk of adverse animal welfare outcomes during export.
“What is apparent is that WA observed an unexcepted yet dramatic cold snap prior to the ships departure, Mr Smith said.
“This incident is the perfect example of why industry must maintain updated scientific research which reflects the conditions in which livestock are entering and exiting a voyage.
‘I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the exporter involved for their transparency as the incident has evolved and commit to working with the industry to ensure animal welfare standards continue to meet community expectation.”
More details to follow.