Vet shortage showing in online marketing of livestock

Eric Barker, 25/07/2023

Paul Holm speaking at last week’s RMA network conference on the Gold Coast.

A SHORTAGE of vets is showing its face in online marketing of livestock – with the industry’s biggest player highlighting it in a discussion about preg-testing.

AuctionsPlus general manager of network Paul Holm presented to last week’s RMA conference on the Gold Coast where he addressed the company’s policies for marketing of preg-tested-in-calf cattle and scanned-in-lamb ewes.

The company’s guidelines were recently changed to require stock market that way to have been preg-tested within 14 days of the assessment. The company’s website says if preg-testing falls outside the 14-day deadline, the agent can use language like “station mated”.

“In-terms of where most of our disputes come from, pregnancy and issues around progeny are right up there,” Mr Holm said.

“We are more and more reluctant to mandate things because we shouldn’t be telling agents how to do their job. But the reason we put the 14 days in with the preg-testing was because that’s what the agents told us was best practice for purchasing and selling.”

Mr Holm said he was still keen to hear from agents and other users about the changes to the pregnancy guidelines, with the potential of updating them.

“We sent an email a couple weeks ago requesting some feedback on the changes to the pregnancy guidelines and only received 68 replies of 1600 – which is not a robust sample size.”

“We are quite aggressive in our use of emails and we understand that, but I would be keen to talk to more agents about this. We worked with the agency group to set the 14-day guidelines and I understand we could need to make that period longer.”

National vet shortage creating some issues

Australia’s vet shortage has been well documented in recent weeks, with farm representative groups and education groups looking for solutions.

Mr Holm said the shortage was part of many conversations about the pregnancy guidelines and the company was still working on a solution. He noted Qld seems have more availability of vets than the southern states.

“You only have to read the newspapers over the last two weeks to know that there is currently a vet shortage and it is going to get worse,” he said.

“I was lucky enough to go to Northern NSW earlier in the year and spoke to two senior agents – one was a net seller and the other was a net buyer.”

“The net buyer said 14 days was perfect because I know I am going to get delivered and the net seller was a bit frustrated because they were struggling to get the vets there on time.”

Asked about around tagging PTIC cattle, Mr Holm said the company had implemented some measures to protect agents in disputes if empty cattle unknowingly being sold as PTIC. He also referred to the company’s affiliation with Pregcheck – a certification scheme for Australian vets.

“If the vet is a registered Australian cattle vet than you can put that form into the system and I believe a lot of them have to scan,” he said.

“With the new terms, if you only get 20 calves out of 60 there are still some protections for the agents.

“But we are more and more reluctant to mandate things because we shouldn’t be telling agents how to do their job.”

  • For more information on the pregnancy guidelines head to the AuctionsPlus website


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  1. Greg and Bronwyn McNamara, 25/07/2023

    The elephant in the room is that 40 years ago 10% of graduating vets were women and now it is 10% men.

  2. Tracey Gowen, 25/07/2023

    It may be that vendors need to be more forward-planning to accomodate the change. Therefore if they want to sell PTIC animals they need to actually get organised and book their vet a few weeks or a month beforehand, so that they know the dates will fit into the guidelines for the planned sale date.
    You will find a similar waiting period to get into your local GP, but pregnancy testing is not an emergency, and it can and should be organised and booked in well in advance of when it needs to occur.

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