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Qld to investigate introduction of lay pregnancy testing of cattle

by Beef Central, 09 May 2017
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Bim Struss

Bim Struss

Queensland’s peak livestock industry representative organisation is stepping up calls for the state Government to allow lay pregnancy testing in the state.

And the Queensland Government looks to be responding, with a new public consultation process expected to commence soon.

AgForce cattle president Bim Struss said pregnancy testing is a key herd management tool that can help producers to lift fertility rates and in turn the productivity and profitability of their enterprises.

However, he said, it could often be difficult and expensive for producers to have their cattle professionally tested in required timeframes, particularly in remote areas.

Queensland producers were also at a competitive disadvantage to their counterparts in Northern Territory and Western Australia where pregnancy testing by non-veterinarians is allowed and has been for years.

“That’s why AgForce has been working on reducing regulation to enable lay pregnancy testers to practice in Queensland,” Mr Struss.

“Let me be very clear – this is not about taking away business from vets or reducing standards.

“It’s all about ensuring there is increased access to reliable and cost effective pregnancy testing across Queensland.”

Mr Struss said AgForce had secured funding from Meat and Livestock Australia to develop a professional accreditation scheme for lay pregnancy testers.

“We are determined to develop a system that satisfies producers, industry stakeholders and the broader community.

“We have been and will continue to work with the Australian Vet Association, the Cattle Vet Association and the RSPCA to ensure the program meets expectations and the highest standards of animal welfare are achieved.”

AgForce has met with Queensland’s Agriculture Minister, Shadow Agriculture Minister and State Government officials to gain support to amend the relevant legislation.

Mr Struss said Queensland Department of Agriculture has indicated it will soon begin a public consultation process.

“Only last week a report by the Australian Farm Institute highlighted that our nation’s beef cattle live exports are worth about $1.35 billion a year and global trade had more than doubled in value over the past decade.

“As trade grows, pressure on our sector to remain competitive is greater than ever.

“While Queensland’s cattle herd is currently at a low ebb after years of drought, we want to have this in place before it returns to normal levels by 2020/2021 so producers can take full advantage and our industry can continue to grow strongly.”

The Australian Cattle Veterinarians does not support moves to allow lay preg testing, and are concerned about declines in pregnancy testing outcomes, and the implications that can have for animal welfare in the live export supply chain.

The Australian Cattle Veterinarians supports the accreditation of veterinarians under it’s own PREgCHECK  program(formerly the National Cattle Pregnancy Diagnosis Scheme), which it says is the most robust pregnancy diagnosis assurance scheme in Australia.

Accredited members have to demonstrate their ability to manually detect pregnancies down to 42 days, and accurately estimate gestational age.

Pregnancy testing services are an important source of income for qualified veterinarians who choose to practice in remote areas. Professional vets are also concerned that if such services are outsourced to lay people who can specialise in that single skill, it will remove a key source of income for local vets, which in turn would threaten to erode the viability of their practices and lead to fewer professional vets operating in remote areas.

 

 

 



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  • Eion John Allister May 9, 2017

    If you have achieved a credential for an acredited Voc ED and Training course for pregnancy test using manual palpation techniques then you should be automatically able to carry out this service for commercial purposes and conduct AI as well if you have a credential for that as well. Inherent in that course is the requirement to be able to recognise pregnancies and estimate age of foetus or you don’t pass the course and as it is a competency based training activity you are therefore considered to be competent if you are issued with the credential. This is utilised for Chemical Certificates and a wide range of other qualifications.
    While recognising that long periods of experience will refine the skill sets, most producers want to know whether a cow is pregnant or not able to be detected as pregnant, rather than exactly how far advanced the gestation is. This is not rocket science and is also easily achieved with ultra sound scanning technology available at some cost but not prohibitively expensive. It is not difficult to operate and is not invasive. Ag force is to be given credit for addressing this matter but why o why does everything involve making such things so complicated via further certification processes for people who are already competent via a nationally recognised training credential. Surely a producer has enough brains to be able to make a decision as to what he or she wants from a preg testing procedure. If the aim is to sort a herd by gestation stage then a vet may be a very sensible choice to make. If a producer has extensive holdings and an extensive grazing operation with bulls running with cows permanently then such a procedure may be very important as a management tool. A scanning contractor could give similar results as well. Producers who utilise fixed time joining are predominately interested in identifying empty cows as it is unlikely that there will be a huge variation in the gestation length under such a regime. If you are selling PTIC cows then there may be an advantage in being able to group animals into a band according to gestation stage. Being able to market animals at a particular stage of pregnancy does provide useful information to a potential purchaser who may want pregnant cows at a similar gestational stage as their own herd following the culling of empty animals in their herd to keep their calf drop aligned. Most cattle producers can look at a calfy animal in a pen and have a pretty reasonable idea as to the stage of pregnancy. They don’t need a tail tag to tell them and they have been doing this for years at saleyards and in private treaty sales.
    Vets are charging around $5 per head to test cows at a saleyards and different rates are applied to customers who have on farm testing. It’s a reasonable earner but many of the activities don’t require a vet’s skill level to be utilised. For vets to want to keep this earner all to themselves is a bit rich. There is nothing to stop a remote or even not so remote producer from becoming credentialled and preg test their own herds for their own management requirements and not need to call a vet near their place. Many do this now. The only thing they can’t do is be paid for doing this for other producers. Scanning technology can be currently purchased by anyone with the funds and the owners can be quickly trained by the technology suppliers and do their own animals. Again they can’t currently provide a paid service to others.
    Things change in the world and preg testing is no longer a dark art to be practised by a select profession and restricted to them. Commercial forces will sort out who is worth paying for and consumer law will apply as it does to any service provided in a commercial context.

  • Terry Johnstone May 10, 2017

    Take preg testing away from vets, Eion, and pretty soon there will be next to no vets left in the bush.

  • Eion John Allister May 11, 2017

    I think there are many other reasons why Vets are not doing so well in the bush. My nephew’s fiance is a vet, my neighbour is a vet and his sister in law is a vet who ran a bakery and coffeee shop in Longreach rather than follow the path of her qualification. I have some understanding of the challenges facing the profession and the challenges of large animal practice. Human medical practice has diversified into many para medical roles where qualified doctors are not providing the service. You can get your flu shot at the pharmacy if you choose. How often does the practice nurse provide immunisation service in a doctor’s surgery? The current marketing campaign to provide pet insurance for small animal owners is a mechanism which allows owners to mitigate the costs associated with the high costs that an unsubsidised care program provided by vets is able to be met. There seems to be a growth in vet practices in urban and peri urban areas but vet services in rural and remoter areas are struggling in many cases. Many rural vet practices were built during the BTEC days when testing was the cash cow for rural vets. Times have changed and market forces are reshaping the vet scene as well as all rural enterprises. I noted in the story about the Hughes family on Beef Central today that they utilise scanning technology for their preg testing program.No vet’s mentioned for this service, but a clear emphasis on the cost base of the business.It begs the question as to why they chose this path. I am not anti vet Terry, I fully recognise the worth of the profession and the services they can and do deliver, but rural producers have had to accomodate deregulation of their industries and suck up the consequences. Quotas and guaranteed base prices are gone, competition has been facilitated and it has changed the way things happen, often for the better and also for the worse. As technology becomes cheaper over time I think that onfarm preg testing will become self managed by producers anyway and there will be further pressure upon vets revenue generating capacity if they are so reliant upon this service as an income source.

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