The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is encouraging cattle producers to ‘err on the side of caution’ in assessing whether cattle are fit to load.
In an article on Beef Central yesterday, Cattle Council of Australia and processor Teys said producers who were unsure if an animal is ‘fit to load’ were encouraged to send photos to their processor prior to loading to be checked by an on-plant DAWR veterinarian before they were transported.
Animals rejected by the DAWR vet did not enter the processing chain, but were destroyed, and the vendor could be charged for disposal of the carcase.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources pointed out it only has on-plant veterinary officers at registered export meat establishments, given its role in upholding Australia’s high standards of exports, and not at domestic abattoirs.
It said producers could face prosecutions under State and Territory laws if they transported cattle that were not fit to load.
“At export establishments, our vets are responsible for assessing animals’ condition on arrival, and they can lodge an animal welfare incident report to the relevant state and territory authority if they believe the animal should not have been loaded,” a DAWR spokesperson told Beef Central.
“The states and territories are responsible for enforcing animal welfare requirements under their legislation.”
DAWR also emphasised that complying with animal welfare and fit to load standards are the responsibility of the producer.
“Producers are encouraged to err on the side of caution when there is doubt, and follow industry guides and resources.”
A JBS representative told Beef Central the company has been encouraing producers to send advance photos of stock they are not sure about for more than two years.
He estimated that the practice lead to cattle being rejected from loading by the DAWR vet about ‘five percent of the time’.