Live Export

Should non-veterinarians be allowed to preg-test cattle for export?

Beef Central, 08/09/2016

Should accredited non-veterinarians be allowed to pregnancy test cattle for export purposes, not just veterinarians?

The Australian Standard for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) requires that unspayed female cattle must be pregnancy tested within 30 days of cattle being exported.

Pregnancy tests for feeder and slaughter cattle to be exported by sea can only be completed by a registered veterinarian using the Australian Cattle Veterinarian’s Association’s PREgCHECK scheme.

Theexception is in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, where “competent pregnancy testers” accredited by a relevant agency can also perform the same role for feeder and slaughter cattle exports.

The Department of Agriculture recently posted a notice to its website clarifying existing requirements for pregnancy testing of cattle for export (available here).

Queensland’s peak cattle producer representative body AgForce says pregnancy testing services can be effectively performed by accredited non-veterinarians.

It sees current laws only permitting veterinarians to perform the task in Queensland as unnecessary, restrictive and unpractical.

AgForce believes a new national scheme is required, allowing accredited producers or non-vet contractors to qualify and pregnancy test empty (PTE) unsprayed females for live export.

“It is needed as it is not cost effective or flexible to have a program that is only available to veterinarians,” AgForce cattle president Bim Struss said.

“We are meeting with industry and government stakeholders soon to discuss this and how it would work.

“It is important for the future growth of the industry that accreditation programs like the (Australian Cattle Veterinarians Association’s) PREgCHECK do not lock Lay Pregnancy Tester Veterinarians out of the market.

“A national approach to pregnancy testing is important but not one that locks up the market for an activity that can be skillfully provided by non-veterinarians.”

However the Australian Cattle Veterinarian’s Association is lobbying against any move to allow more non-veterinarian pregnancy testers to perform the task.

It has long expressed concerns that existing accreditation schemes in Northern Territory and WA do not ensure that preg-testing by non-veterinarians is being performed accurately, which in turn can lead to welfare issues and put export market relationships at risk.

ACV President Dr Craig Dwyer said the association has been lobbying to improve the accountability of pregnancy testing in live export.

The ACV’s PREgCHECK scheme, formerly the National Cattle Pregnancy Diagnosis Scheme or NCPD, was the most robust pregnancy diagnosis assurance scheme in Australia, he said.

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

“Accredited testers under the scheme have a unique registration number and are the only people authorised to use the scheme’s certification mark on cattle tail tags.

“These tags are well recognised in the industry and are used by producers to add value to sold livestock.”

PREgCHECK used both rectal palpation and ultrasound to make an accurate diagnosis and predict calving date. This is not available with blood or milk pregnancy testing, Dr Dwyer said.

AgForce cattle president Bim Struss said the organisation supported efforts to improve the standard of national pregnancy testing for live export.

“We believe this needs to be a nationally accredited program available to both veterinarians and non-veterinarians,” he said.

“We are currently working with stakeholders to develop a better system that is more cost effective and flexible for producers than the PREgCHECK scheme which is only available for veterinarians.

“The outcome we are all trying to achieve is that the standard of pregnancy testing for live export is improved across the board.”




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  1. Dan tafino, 15/09/2016

    I think the proposed idea is a great idea!! I don’t think it needs to become a witch hunt (who is the better Preg tester?) because the facts are there are some vets who are accurate at Preg testing and there some vets who are not accurate, and the same goes for Non vet Preg testers, the market will sort out accurate Preg tester to non accurate because the producer will not hire the non accurate Preg tester again, and if there is a good accreditation program in place then a lot of those non accurate Preg tester will wash out before hitting the market..
    It has to all come back to accuracy and to say a vet is the only one who can be accurate is just not true!! Every one has stories of vets not been accurate and non vets not been accurate and anyone to claim anything less is incorrect.
    The big iussie’s for producers only having access to vets is.
    -The availability of vets
    -The cost of getting a vet out
    -Paying top doller for a vet who is not accurate (again not all vets)
    Some Vets don’t cover all of the areas we need them to and for that reason the vets charge travel on top of the per head rate so all this is doing is driving the price up of producing that animal witch is taking money out of the producers pocket.
    So the knock on effect is that some producers will not even Preg test because of cost, witch is not good for the industry because we need to Preg test to get rid of non productive breeders.
    Now to say that non vets will take work away from
    Vets is just not true at all!!!!! If a vet is doing a good job and is accurate and charging a far rate why would I hire another vet or a non vet? You don’t hire a guy because he is just cheap you hire because he is accurate other wise that cheap rate become very expensive quickly with every mistake they make.
    With a good accreditation program not just a few head and away you go, and a programme where every best is recoded against the Preg tester to give them some accountability, this will open up a lot more cows/heifers to be Preg tested because the producer will have access to actuate accredited Preg testers for a fare rate because it will be more competitive for the Preg testers so they will have to charge a fare rate.
    So I think it time to put the power back in the producers hands and give them access to more accurate Preg testing vets and non vets at a fare rate. let’s not do what we normally do and have a knee jerk reaction to the problem lets not open up the flood gates and let people who have done 100hd at a Preg testing course or at uni be accredited for live export and tail tagging. Let’s put a GOOD accreditation programme in place and not forget we need to make it about the industry/producers not about the people doing the work.

  2. Mike Hadwin, 11/09/2016

    There’s a lot of supposition in Peter Williams’s comments which is not quite right. There’s no shortage of statistics that shows laymen are nowhere near as accurate as a qualified vet, on average. And more importantly, it’s accurately picking the empties, rather than the pregnants, which is the key issue for live export. Perhaps it should be re-named, non-pregnancy testing. Any visit to an Indonesian feedlot will show the size of the problem through mis-diagnosis. Sure, preg testing is an important income-stream for vets. But take it away, and half the vets in northern Australia will disappear, when you next need them for something else. Be careful what you wish for.

  3. Chris Gunther, 10/09/2016

    It is interesting, that a vet needs a higher OP than a doctor to go to uni for at least 6 years, and then get treated like a jackeroo, and paid like a brickie. I wonder why anyone would do it.

  4. Peter Williams, 08/09/2016

    Veterinarians have played god for too long ( this is a Queensland only problem). The advent of portable scanners means that many cattle people are doing this for themselves equally as well as the vets. Not allowing non vets to do this is all about the money $$$. Time to call in for a reality check.

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