Eighty-one year-old legislation which prevents non-veterinarians from pregnancy testing cattle is disadvantaging cattle producers in Queensland compared to their counterparts in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales, the AgForce live export forum in Townsville was told this week.
The AgForce cattle board has been campaigning for the Queensland Government to amend the State’s Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1936 to allow pregnancy testing by trained and accredited non-veterinarians.
After several years of lobbying action is occurring, with the Queensland Government soon to release a Regulatory Impact Statement for public consultation which will outline proposed amendments to the 1936 Act.
There are also broader national implications stemming from that push, with a national project underway looking at commercial pregnancy testing competencies across Australia, which could lead to the development of a national standard.
AgForce says laws preventing lay pregnancy testing of cattle mean it can be costly and difficult, and at times impossible, for Queensland producers to find veterinarians within required time frames, particularly in remote areas when a consignment has been sold to fill the final stages of a live export shipment and requires pregnancy testing at short notice.
AgForce also wants the Queensland Act amended to enable non-vets to use ultrasound technology as well as manual palpation.
Veterinarians have previously opposed the Queensland push over concerns it will undermine the accuracy of pregnancy testing in the State and could reduce animal welfare standards.
Vets have also voiced concern that allowing pregnancy testing by lay people could cause country-based vets to lose a core component of their work and revenue that keeps their operations viable, which could have the unintended consequence of resulting in fewer vets operating in remote areas.
AgForce cattle president Bim Struss said AgForce supports training and accreditation of all lay pregnancy testers to ensure any procedural risks are mitigated and animal welfare standards are maintained.
He said AgForce was working with the Australian Cattle Veterinarians Association to develop a training program to underpin a future accreditation standard for non-veterinarians.
In fact this process now appears likely to have national implications, with Mr Struss telling the forum that the Australian Livestock Exporter’s Council and Cattle Council of Australia are considering broadening the scope to conduct a national review of commercial pregnancy testing competencies, and to potentially develop a national standard.
Mr Struss said the door was now open for a broadscale national reform of commercial pregnancy testing.
AgForce has developed a proposal for a training and accreditation scheme and intends to run a pilot program in Queensland, which he said could be expanded into a national reform.
“All the underpinning processes will be scalable to a national framework,” he said.
“The principles of the PregCheck, which is the Australian Veterinary Association model for assurance and accreditation, will be incorporated into the scheme.
“So we are saying to the vets we are prepared to accept and look at the principles of their PregCheck scheme and to make sure we are doing the right thing.
“The principles of the national standards will also be incorporated into the scheme. We want to work with the vets, not against them.”
Mr Struss said the new system in Queensland will be reliable and affordable, giving producers access to qualified and accredited preg test technicians.
He said he did not the believe the new system would generate an extra 100 additional pregnancy testing technicians in the state, suggesting the take up rate would be more like 20 or 30.
“We’ll see how it goes, but certainly we can start to fill some of those gaps is what this is about.
“There will be increased confidence because of the expert training and records being kept on the accuracy of individual preg test technicians.”
A well trained and accredited person would keep a standard on line with protocol.
Indonesian importers well know that there are many more pregnant feeder heifers shipped up that come from the NT and WA compared to Qld. There is no doubt that once the NT opened up their testing to any ole joe blow, the rate of pregnant heifers increased in a feeder shipment.
The current system in NT and WA does not have much credibility.