Author Archives: Jo Bloomfield

About Jo Bloomfield

Family operated pastoral property. Passionate about our business, living sustainably, vegie gardens, fruit trees and goats.

“We’ll take you fishing, promise!”

When family and friends come to visit usually at some stage they in tend to go fishing,  we have a number of natural water holes so we can generally catch something. (I’ve no idea what breeds, they are fish that’s about all I know).

Mind you there are also crocodiles and other bitey things in the waterholes so fishing is not my favourite thing. I prefer to stand back and admire the scenery.

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Like most people who are on farms or pastoral stations the last thing we really have time for in the dry season particularly when mustering, is fishing. So unsuspecting family and friends tend to get roped into free labour of mustering and general property work before the fishing trip occurs, if it occurs at all.

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Anyway visitors usually bring their paraphernalia of fishing gear and ‘stuff’ because of course we promise them if they come to visit then we’ll take them fishing.

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This time we did take them fishing, of a very different type! The worst type of all, fishing gear out of a bore hole.

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We’re heavily reliant on bore water for our stock and ourselves, so for water we pump from drilled bore holes. While we do live in the semi tropics and have waterholes and plentiful natural water in the wet, bores are absolutely imperative in the dry season. They allow a clean available water source for cattle and are vitally necessary for their optimum long term health and survival. We also use the water troughs and tanks in the dry to enable mineral supplementation. That is a liquid we place in drums with dispensers and the animals obtain the supplement through simply drinking from their troughs.

This is a blog I wrote a while back for Central Station in regards to Drilling for water.

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We went to check a bore one day in late September and it wasn’t pumping. It wasn’t a critical period because the new steel tank we had there to hold water was full and we knew this allowed us at-least 1-2 days grace of fixing the bore and getting it pumping before the cattle would drain the storage and be thirsty. All the same it was important we repair the bore as soon as possible. So we went home and collected the gear we needed to ‘pull’ the bore which is a number of cables, clamps and winches. We set the gear up and got to work.

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We’d had a very good run out of this bore’s gear and knew it was a number of years old, To have not corroded or broken down before this point in time was unusual as water electrolysis corrosion and general wear and tear tends to mean most bore equipment needs some form of maintenance or replacement every few years.

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To understand how bore gear works it is important to envisage what is happening below the ground in regards to bore water. A bore is literally a very deep narrow hole of only 150mm diameter drilled into water bearing rock layers. There the ground water can be sourced from aquifers. For some areas this may mean you have to dig hundreds of metres, in others it may be very shallow. Here we tend to need to drill between 60-130m to hit good supply of water, and then the water is sub artesian. It actually rises closer to ground level above the point it enters the bore hole through slots in the casing. You place a pump down the hole and access the water.
For this particular bore we knew we had a bore that was a total depth of 61m, (that is  reasonably shallow  in the NT). It had pumping gear down to a depth of 42m and we knew the standing water level (SWL) was about 16m.

#2 bore 003_edited-1
A diagram showing the bore hole attributes below the soil surface.

The pumping gear that had failed was the mono gear down the hole. It is a system of 2” column that screws together and is hung down the hole. Inside the casing is rod that runs the length of the column and is joined at the very base to a screw pump that actually draws and lifts the water.

This screw that lifts the water works on the Archimedes screw principle

#2 bore 001_edited-1

Principals of the mono rod and column system used to lift water from a bore.

A motor is at the top of the bore and through a belt system and pulleys spin the internal rods of the mono very fast. The outside column stays stationary. The spin is transferred to the bottom of the rods to the screw pump which is inside a very tight rubber sleeve. As this spins, it sucks in water and forces it up the inside of the column and the flow moves to the ground surface to be used. The mono column and rods are in sections of 3m (10’) and each section has a joiner. On the column these are called collars on the rod they are thimbles.

When ‘pulling’ a bore we use pulley’s, clamps and very specific actions and processes to grab the column and lift it in sections to then hold under the collars and thimbles as we undo and remove lengths. Holding and removing a section at a time we unscrew and repeat the process until we have all the mono gear out of the hole. As you can only pull out 3m (10’) at a time it is a process that must be done very carefully and with considerable care.

We had 42m of gear to lift so that’s about 14 lifts and removals to do. I have no idea what column weighs but guessing 14 lengths of 3m column and rods would be about 1 tonne. Again not a great deal of gear or weight considering some bores can be extremely deep. It can be dangerous but everyone is particularly careful with bore work so things are checked and double checked. My husband and I have a system and we’re very particular about who does what, so it is a very measured process. The concern is to not have any items loose, everything is done slow and steady because if you drop the gear it will go sailing to the bottom of the hole and then you have all sorts of problems.

Prior to beginning to lift the mono we’d diagnosed what we thought was the problem, a broken rod. Not a big deal as we could clamp, hold and lift the column which would lift the rods and allow us to replace them. At the base of the column is a foot valve that should stop any rods slipping through the base of the pump but as a precaution we also have a rod clamp at the top that held the rods in-case that foot value has corroded away. Just because you have hold of the column doesn’t always mean you have hold of the internal rods if that base foot valve or pump has disconnected for some reason. We knew the rods were broken so we knew we didn’t have a clear connection of the rods all the way to the foot valve. We hoped the breaking of the internal rod had not caused so much damage to the external column that it had caused the pipe to completely break away as tends to happen if the internal rod has flogged around inside an already weakened pipe and cause a whipping action, further increasing damage to spilts or holes in the steel pipe walls.

We lifted a couple of lengths, no problem, It felt suitably heavy and we hoped if there was damage to the column they were only pitted holes and not an entire disconnect. Then quiet literally shit happened! Where the column had worn it had caused a tear rusthole to occur in the casing partially around it, when we had moved the column, we had aggrevated it further and the column itself had completely gave way because the thing actually holding it was the rod and its tight fit inside the lower sections of the column and further into the screw pump, with the weight and nothing to hold it up it fell to the bottom of the hole. All we had was what we had clamped at the top of the hole.

Sometimes things occur that when they happen, you can just see the dollar signs, My husband and I knew exactly what had happened when we felt and seen the cable jump, We went from having maybe 700kg of weight to now lucky to have 200kg We’d still had hold of at-least one length of column and rods but we knew we had just heard a gut wrenching sound of a lot of rod and column go sailing to the bottom of the hole. To say we felt sick instantaneously was an understatement. Getting dropped gear out of a hole is no easy feat and usually means the hole is stuffed. Not only would we have to drill a new hole at who knows what expense, it would have been near impossible to get a driller in any short time frame. We had 500 head of cattle needing critical water in less than 2 days and while we could move them to other bores, it wasn’t a good time to be over stocking other waters at the end of the dry. Plus we were still mustering, plus it was drying off, plus to drill a new bore meant we couldn’t do the other improvements we had planned, plus drillers are notoriously difficult to get, often booked out 12 months ahead, plus, plus, plus. All of this and more goes through your head in about 2 seconds, then replays into all the worst scenerios,none good and none cheap! My hubbie just looked up at me and I looked at him and said, shit bugger bum! (Actually I can’t write what we really said or thought, there just aren’t bad enough words).

Our son and family were off-siding for us and actually had no idea what had just happened. They just knew by our expression that something had just gone very, very wrong. We’d been grilling them all morning about being careful near the bore hole not to let spanners and tools sit too close. Our explanation to them now was “we have to go fishing”, it wasn’t exactly conveyed enthusiastically.

As it turned out we actually had hold of still a fair few lengths of column so in some ways that was relief, it meant less weight to lift if we managed to get what was lost. What was now at the bottom of the hole was about 20m of column that is 50mm (2”)in diameter and 30m rod that was 16mm (5/8”). What we needed to do was put a tool down to catch and pull it out. It sounds simple but it’s not.
We had to get this stuff out, but the top of the rods were now 21m from the surface and at-least 6m below water, luckily for us this is not a very long way in ‘bore language’, actually it’s pretty shallow, but it was still very awkward and did mean that any gear lost in the hole would make it very difficult to place another pump due to lack of space. The gear had to come out.
If you were absolutely desperate you can leave dropped gear in holes, if the depth and water levels are Ok, but it’s not a good idea and restricts the use of the bore hole significantly as it usually makes it difficult to pump from. Sometimes gear can fall down a hole but not always to the bottom, if its lodged partway it can stuff the whole thing.

Rob drew on some old experience, we had ‘fished before’. It is a small cars spring welded to the inside of a heavy piece of column, in the hope that what we can do is send the tool down the hole and fluke it sliding over the rod, far enough that the spring would catch under a thimble. It would hold it strong enough to lift everything back up and remove all the gear.

#2 bore 002_edited-1

In theory the fishing tool will slide over the rod and column to allow the spring to jamb up under neath the thimble.

So back home we go to make the fishing tool. Back out to the bore we go to start fishing. It’s a simple idea but involves reconfiguration of the entire cable system and a lot of hands on touch and feel of the cable gently lifting the weight and trying to catch the rod. Remember we can’t see bugger all down the hole, it’s all by touch and the mind’s eye.
With the rod sticking so far out of the column it may have actually been leaning up against the wall of the bore. We needed to be careful not to the jam the ‘fishing tool’ down and actually push the rod into the wall of the PVC casing, that would have made it impossible to get it out.

So it’s not just a case of sending a heavy piece of metal down at a rate of knots and hoping it will grab, if we bent the top of the rods even if we did grab them it may mean we then have the rods jam into the bore casing and then we’d have the rods, column and fishing tool jammed down the hole with the cable. If we caught the bore hole wall casing there is the chance you can move it and then damage it thus again wrecking the bore as the casing is what holds the walls of the bore in place and breaking it can cause soil and rock to eventually cave the bore damaging the integrity of the whole thing.

We spent a full day trying to catch that gear with no luck, we decided that the cable we had wasn’t flexible enough so we sent an SOS to our neighbours to beg, borrow and plead if they may have any suitable cable. Luckily they did and so we drove over to borrow it, discussed all sorts of methods of bore recovery war stories, came home, set up and tried again.

By this time we did have thirsty cattle, thirsty cattle get destructive. It’s not a good thing. A thirsty animal will persist at any little point of moisture through licking or simply brute strength to get to what they think will be a water supply.
We tried again for another half day and just couldn’t get a grab to hold, we thought we had it but it slipped and went to the bottom again. By this time we were getting very worried. We had an audience of cattle who were simply watching and waiting and wondering what the heck was taking us so long.

We needed to move these cattle so we did, not an easy task as the other bores were not their normal bores and cattle being creatures of habit will return to the ‘home bore’ almost immediately.

The fishing tool was modified and refined and again we went fishing, we got it again, or I should say Rob caught it again and it was with very careful and extreme trepidation we lifted it out. It was such a relief to see rods emerge from that bore hole, even better when we had clamps locked on. Quick smart we pulled that mono gear out and we replaced the heavy stuff with new solar pump. Nice light poly pipe with a steel safety cable. If needed Rob, our son and I often pull these up and down by hand.

Most of the cattle we had walked away from the bore came back immediately when there was water available. We spent nearly 4 days fishing for that gear, through ingenuity and plain stubbornness my husband got it out. We were thanking our lucky stars that day. There are some horrid stories of gear dropped down bores and expensive redrills, we hoped we weren’t to add to them.

That fishing trip, we really did take the family fishing later, to be honest we needed an R&R day following the stress of that bore.

22.12.12 063

Fishes. They tasted good.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Beef Industry, bores, Cattle station, Cattle station operations, Property operations, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Wild Dog management on Pastoral Land #3

Wild Dog management on Pastoral Land #1

Wild Dog management on Pastoral Land #2

What is 1080
1080 is a colourless, tasteless, odourless chemical that is naturally occurring in some Australian native plants. Its chemical name is sodium fluoroacetate or sodium monfluroacetate and is manufactured as a pesticide. It is a schedule 7 poison under the Poisons and Dangerous Drugs Act; this means its use is very restricted and highly regulated. It is also extremely potent. The reason it is a preferred chemical of use is because it is easily deactivated and breaks down with water, it will not accumulate as a toxic residue in the soil.
Ingestion of 1080 interferes with the animal’s ability to produce energy from its cells that enable basic body function and survival. 1080 disrupts the energy or electrical impulses and communication of the cells in the body causing the central nervous system to collapse and cardiac arrest to occur leading to death.

A medium weight dog of 14.5kg requires ingestion of 1.6mg of 1080 to be lethal, a pig 56.1mg and an 80kg person 160mg.

12.04.13 009_edited-2Picture 1. These are 1080 dry baits, one of these baits is enough to kill an adult dog. The layer of baits is broken up into individual blocks before dispersal around the property.

28.10.15 018_edited-1Picture 2. Some raw meat lumps that are ready to be injected with liquid 1080. Only 0.2ml is injected into each bait but that is enough to kill a dog.

Birds will pick up some of these baits but generally have a much higher tolerance to 1080 and therefore it doesn’t usually kill them unless they manage to find lots of baits and consume all of them which is highly unlikely. Pigs will also eat the baits and again need a much larger dose to be killed. Domestic dogs will eat the baits and it will kill them.
There is no current effective antidote for 1080 though I do believe there is one being developed called Blue Heeler.

We do not have available to us any other effective largescale management tools to control wild dogs. In our environment their tracks are seen but they rarely make appearances. Shooting is not always a practical or efficient method of control.

In years gone past there was a dog bounty in which people who did shoot or trapped dogs, skun and produced the ears, scalp and back hair as evidence of killing to receive a reward. I believe parts of QLD still pay a dog bounty but I haven’t been able to find how much the NT used to do this. My father in law tells me in his day (in the NT) it was enough to earn a reasonable income and supplement the wages they used to receive. Recently Victoria was offering $100 a scalp.
The National Wild dog action plan
Throughout Australia wild dogs are now recognised as having significant social and financial impact on many aspects of agriculture, native fauna and ecology. Not only in their direct impact on livestock through killing and maiming but they have been attributed with spreading a hydatidosis worm and infecting domestic dogs with parvo virus.

In some parts of Australia native animal populations of small ground animals and birds is returning with the control and implementation of wild dog programs Animals return to NW NSW following wild dog culling.
75% of landholders in the NT rate the wild dog problem on their property as severe or extremely severe. Not only due to the financial costs but also the emotional toll that causes distress, anger and a lot of work in caring for injured animals.

Some sheep producers are recognised as suffering a condition similar to post traumatic stress, a condition called hyper vigilance. It is a condition that is beyond simply being aware of a problem or looking for its occurrence, it is an exaggerated emotional intensity in attempting to detect threats, accompanied by very high levels of anxiety that causes exhaustion. Combined with the other pressures producers face of operating their properties, hypervigilance is not a state you can maintain for a long time without health repercussions.
Across every state and Territory in Australia a co-ordinated implementation program was initiated and continues to counter wild dog problems across Australia. In the NT this has been significant for producers like myself that enables controlled baiting programs to occur on our properties.

For the first time in a long time we feel that we are actually getting wild dog numbers under control through use of 1080 baiting programs targeting wild dogs.

The process of 1080 baiting
To seek approval to use 1080 for a wild dog control program I am required to complete
1. Chemical certificate application course and
2. Complete a 1080 training program through an accredited training provider
Only after I have received both of these credentials, which require renewal and retraining every 5 years, can i then apply on behalf of the property each year for;
1. an authorisation to use 1080
2. an approval to purchase 1080 and
3. a permit to take protected wildlife for pest animal control.
This requires a lengthy documented application that details where I will lay the baits according to our property lay out, what signs I will use to warn people of baiting, who will do the baiting and at what time periods.

12.04.13 012_edited-2Picture 3. Example of the 1080 wild dog control baiting notifications.Anywhere that you see a sign of this description or similar exercise caution if you have your own animals with you. There is no antidote for 1080 commercially available yet! While rain is thought to break down bait formulations very quickly there may be a possibility a bait has been laid that is protected from moisture and is still potent and potentially lethal to your animal after rain periods.

If you suspect your pet dog has taken a bait, they may show symptoms of extreme eye dilation, dis-orientation and rapid breathing. Restrain them and cover their eyes to reduce the light awareness with tape and a cloth if needed. You will need to get them to a vet for immediate attention.

This is a 1st_aid_book that has some very helpful information and may be useful for those who have domestic dogs and suspect their animal has picked up a bait. It also has helpful information to increase awareness and prevention of domestic dog accidental baiting.
In regards to a 1080 wild dog program, control and documentation is very strict in that I need to keep records of all aspects of our actions in regards to the baiting program conducted, including notification to neighbours of our baiting and recording of circumstances regarding the baiting process. Including accountability to every single bait used.
If government departments are not satisfied with past record keeping or procedures then they have the right and ability to refuse your future applications.
Only when we receive specific authorisation to conduct a baiting programs are we allowed to then ask agents to purchase dry baits on our behalf or hire a contractor to inject wet baits.

If I am conducting a wet bait program then the person we contract to inject the baits has very specific and legally binding requirements of their actions of injecting meat for us. In this process we will kill a bull or other animal  and  cut several hundred pieces of meat into sections about the size of your fist, approximately 400-500g.

If I purchase dry baits then I must present my original documentation of the permits to the seller and transport those baits in a locked storage container.

Dry baits have a shelf life where as wet baits are used immediately. Neither is necessarily more potent but the attractant of using a a wet bait is often more effective in attracting dogs to take the baits.

We rarely see a wild dog, dead or alive and can only judge the success our baiting programs on the damage as evidenced on our cattle. Previous years we have been conducting dry baiting programs, earlier this year we conducted wet bait and feel confident it was far more effective than the previous dry baits.
We have determined the beneficial use of the wet bait program by visual inspection of our calves and see that they don’t have marks on their ears and bodies, this year has seen a marked decrease in damage to calves seen around the property.
Wild dog control is absolutely essential for the long term health and welfare of our cattle and our own businesses financial future. It is absolutely imperative that wild dog control programs are conducted consistently and effectively at a local, state and national level.

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Picture – Photo November 2015. Cows and their new drop of calves resting at a trough late in the dry season. This period is our highest calf drop time and also when dog attacks are their most severe.We try to look at all calves on each bore run and see if they have dog damage to their bodies to determine the effectiveness of our wild dog control programs.

Categories: 1080 baiting, Animal Welfare, Cattle station | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Wild dog management on Pastoral Land #2.

Wild dog management on pastoral land #1

History of dogs in Australia
The Dingo (Canin lupus dingo) derived from wolves in eastern Asia and migrated to Australia approximately 4,500-5,000 years ago. They were possibly assisted in their migration throughout Australia by use as food and companionship by aboriginal people. Feral domestic dogs (Canin lupus familiaris) came to Australia with European settlement; the two Canin species can interbreed and are known as hybrids and are present across all of Australia.

Wild dogs distribution is across all of Australia.

2012 distribution_edited-1Source – AWI ABARES Wild dog management in Australia – document is available for download in the sources at the end of this blog.

night shots #1_edited-1Picture 1. Source – Conservation and Pest Management. A night vision camera captures this image of 5 dogs feeding on a pig carcase purposely established to investigate dog activity in the area.

With innate predator behaviour the dingo and wild dog opportunistically hunt a variety of mammals, native and introduced, birds and reptiles. They will scavenge carrion including rubbish as well as eat plants, fruit, vegetables and eggs.
Each dog requires the equivalent about one fifth (20%) in food and 12% water relative to their own body weight to survive.

They can survive on moisture they obtain from blood and fluids found in prey but generally require a permanent water source for long term survival.
Wild dogs are top order predators, meaning they have few natural enemies, except people. Most people regard them as pests, yet wild dogs may enable important ecological balance by preying on some other species, some of those  being introduced pests themselves, such as rabbits.
The pure Dingo is an annual breeder with mating occurring usually April –May with generally a small litter of 2-3 pups following a gestation of about 2 months. Hybrids or wild dogs tend to breed larger litters, often up to 6-8 pups and can breed sometimes twice per year. The dispersal and increase of hybrid animals has been assisted by development of water points in rural and urban environments and feeding capabilities has been increased due to livestock production across many areas. Domestic dog releases and abandonments including interbreeding from all over Australia has exasperated the problem with hybrid dog numbers exploding in recent years.
A dog’s ability to traverse area depends largely on their environment and conditions, but some have been tracked over thousands of kilometres in only short periods across several months. Pure dingo’s exhibit strong territorial pack behaviours, Hybrids often do not and will wander over large distances thus increasing their chances of food source acquisitions and breeding encounters.

Producers such as myself want to minimise wild dog populations to predominantly protect our cattle but there is the possibility that in killing pure Dingo populations we are upsetting the pack order hierarchy of the pure dingo population. By trying to control wild dog numbers we may actually be causing increased attacks on our livestock by pure dingo populations as the younger generations have not learnt the abilities of their leaders and will attack livestock that are easier and more plentiful than native wildlife to survive. If we remove all dogs from one area we may in fact be causing an vacuum that increases likelihood of dog transitioning from another area as their social order and territorial areas alters.

As with all livestock management and animal welfare issues there is  no easy answer in regards to welfare and economic needs that is plain cut and correct for everyone to follow, We protect one animal by killing another. There has to be some form of balance but at the moment the pendulum is that wild dog numbers are excessive and causing catastrophic non sustainable losses to many livestock production systems.

Impact on Livestock production
From a personal viewpoint the experience of finding animals that are still alive but severely maimed is the most distressing.

As our property is open range we usually find an injured animal a number of days after they have been attacked. Blood poisoning or septicaemia is generally well established, particularly if it is hot humid weather by the time we find the animals.

Due to dog inflicted injuries, the animal is often suffering secondary infections from blow fly maggot infestation or general infection due to dirt entering open wounds. The wounds by their smell and purification sometimes attract other predators including more dogs and pigs; this then initiates a second attack which would usually kill the animal.
Wild dogs can cause significant trauma to the tail, the resulting crush injury is then prone to a condition called ‘tail rot’. Blood flow has been affected to parts of the tail and the tissue dies (necrotic),  this can cause infection to enter the tail and moves up the tail possibly into the spinal cord even leading to meningitis and paralysis of the hind quarter.
We produce cattle and though quiet in nature by pastoral standards these animals are not tame or used to being handled, such as a dairy herd or southern beef herd may be accustomed too. Sometimes we  see livestock injured by dog damage but to capture and attempt to give them some form of medication involves chasing them. This then causes even further stress usually worsening their injuries, increasingly bleeding and pain.

15.12.12 227_edited-1Picture 2 – This weaner is with its mother, having suffered an attack as seen by the scratches on its ears. The animal is in a low body conditioned state as it is late in the dry season when fodder is at is worst nutritional level. We were unable to catch this calf and do not know if it survived.
Sometimes we find calves that have received injuries and are so exhausted from their ordeal we can walk up and capture them, Often they don’t attempt to move away. The mother may be present and  significantly agitated or obviously suffering exhaustion because she has been fighting off a number of dogs over a long duration. Other times the calves have been entirely abandoned.

06.05.2015 070_edited-1Picture 3. A young heifer several months after we captured her. She was lying near a tree with her mother still with her and had suffered a dog attack that tore the muscle and skin from her shoulders and rear end, including her tail and ears, the scar tissue can easily be seen. She recovered eventually but due to her trauma and forced weaning (we removed her from her mum) she remained a small and stunted animal. This calf suffered long periods of repeat infections that went right down her front legs due to skin being pulled from the muscle but not broken, She was tough enough to survive but will never be able to be sold and possibly never be able to breed.

Depending on the injuries and if the calves mother is present, and we can catch the little guys we may  apply medicated sprays that we carry in our vehicles all the time and release the calf to its mother or we may capture the animal and take it home to become a ‘poddy’. Often these animals die as they are unable to handle the combined stress of having been attacked, weaning and the infection and injury assaulting their bodies.
There are times when we have found animals so distressed and with such infection that on approaching them we can smell their rotting flesh, occasionally we can clean these wounds and the animal will survive, other times we have to shoot them. Euthanasia is not a pleasant process for the producer, this is invariably shooting an animal that we are responsible for and feel incredibly sorry for due to the injuries they have received. We are all licensed to carry and discharge firearms.
We conduct a basic record of all animals that we capture for their first branding, keeping a tally of what we regard as a minor or major body damage. These are the animals which have been attacked but have survived, we have no real idea of the ones that have been attacked and have died. A visual inspection is conducted of each animal as we restrain them individually at branding time. If the calf has only a torn ear then we call it minor, if it shows any scar damage especially across its withers (shoulders) legs, rump and particularly if it has no tail then it is regarded as major. We use these records and general observations to plan and implement a wild dog control program.
We have had animals survive dog attacks that come into the yard with their genitals torn and sometimes even missing testicles all together. Often significant scar tissue is around the rump or their tail is gone from  high on the point it joins their backbone. Some animals have slight damage to their ears; others don’t have ears at all. The dogs have attacked them by hanging onto their ears and hindquarters until parts of their body were physically tore away. If the wounds have healed there are often large indentations or obvious deformity in that part of the body.
Some livestock show no obvious impediment from their body damage though the loss of a tail means they have little to combat flies and irritating bugs with. Some recover from unbelievably horrific and deep cuts, while the muscle shape is lost their bodies do seem to adapt to the weakness of those muscles damaged. Some females if their genitals are damaged have difficulty calving due to the extensive scar tissue around their vagina area.

For the animals that survive or have been a victim of a wild dog attack the stress and energy lost in exertion of fighting or running from dogs can be detrimental to the animals health. Especially late in the dry season when body condition is paramount to the long term health of the livestock, reduction of this condition can affect their long term survivability until rains are received.
Reasons for control of wild dogs
I would be lying if I said we didn’t want to control dogs because they fundamentally cost us a financial fortune, but the motivation is also too equally to protect our stock from pain and suffering. We are responsible for the wellbeing of our cattle but at times feel completely helpless in the onslaught they seem to face from wild dogs. Stopping livestock production is not an option, therefore we must find ways to protect our stock.
Many years and again significant amounts of money have gone into enabling the genetics and breeding of livestock animals to occur. Including the supply of significant water and infrastructure development. To achieve the task of having an animal become pregnant and give birth to a live healthy calf is predominantly the aim of what we do. We produce animals.

Wild dogs attack the animals usually the smallest and weakest and destroy our production and profitability. The flow on impact of wild dog damage is massive, yet our very operation actually supports their access to water and easy prey for food.
On the one hand we are protecting our stock, on the other we are destroying another animal to enable our livestock to live.

Some argue the native Dingo should be protected, to a point I do agree but the true pure Dingo is largely non-existent now and I believe they have largely adapted to hunting livestock as they are easier to kill than native animals.
The fact that wild dogs can cause such catastrophic damage as hybrids or in conjunction with each other indicates to me that wild dog numbers are so excessive at present that realistically if businesses are to survive then we must implement significant long term wild dog control programs that control the population.

We are having animals being pulled down and sometimes killed that are over 1 year old and weigh over 200kg, if dogs are injuring these animals then a small calve is hardly going to challenge them who may not be much larger than the dogs themselves.

28.10.15 019_edited-1Picture – A newborn calf with the afterbirth yet to be cleaned by his mother. This calf is still unstable on his legs and will be unstable for several hours after birth. Small calves of this age and size are literally defenceless from a pack of dogs.
In the NT, Dingo’s are regarded as a native species and accordingly they are afforded full legal protection under the Territory Parks & Wildlife conservation Act 2006. It is an offence to possess, interfere or kill dingo’s unless authorised. Wild dogs are not protected and need to be controlled.
How do we control wild dogs without decimating the native Dingo?
Unfortunately current chemicals used in baiting programs to control wild dogs are not specie specific, the baits we lay to kill wild dogs will kill Dingo’s but with controls and strict regulations in place the amount of baits we are allowed including time periods and place allocation enables some populations of the Dingo to survive as we are not allowed to bait however or whenever we like.
There are a number of methods used to control wild dogs but I will explain the 1080 baits that we are authorised to use on our property in the following blog

Wild dog management on Pastoral land #3

Categories: Animal Welfare, Beef Industry, Cattle station | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Wild dog management on Pastoral Land #1

Warning some images in this blog may be upsetting to some viewers.
Please keep in mind livestock producers face these images every day!

I am going to try to present to you the impact of wild dogs on our property, why we need to control them and how we go about controlling them in a series of blogs.

This first blog looks at the impact of animal welfare of livestock due to wild dog attacks and wild dog attack occurences across Australia on a broad scale.

The second blog Wild dog management on Pastoral land #2 looks at wild dog problems in relation to our property

The third blog Wild dog management on Pastoral land #3 looks at methods of control using 1080 baiting of wild dogs.

Trauma to the animals – This is what wild dogs will do to some animals. Many do not survive these attacks!

06.05.2015 068_edited-2Picture #1 – This is a calf of approximately 4 months old, her left ear has nearly been torn off by wild dogs. We captured and transported her home where she was kept her in a hospital pen. She survived.

06.05.2015 097_edited-2Picture #2 – This calf was attacked, both her ears were torn off and her tail has also been ripped off. This animal was so distressed from her ordeal that she didn’t even move when we approached her. An animal lying in this prostrate state is an indication of their utter exhaustion, usually followed by death. We shot this animal to prevent any further suffering.

wound cleaning_edited-1Picture #3 – This is a calf that was attacked several days before we found it. I am cleaning the wounds with  water initially and it is coming out of the puncture holes in his skin down his legs. We gave this animal a broad spectrum antibiotic, applied fly repellent and wound sprays for a number of days including regularly cleaning the wound with salt water. Sometimes the dogs may not actually tear the skin but will cause it to disconnect from the muscle internally. Secondary infection is highly likely after survival of an attack. This calf survived but treatment and eventual recovery was slow and would have been extremely painful.

Trauma to the people – These are a series of quotes and comments in relation to Wild dog attacks, some are my own thoughts.
ABARES – Survey 2011 “Trauma experienced by farmers as a result of prolonged wild dog attacks on livestock was similar to that experienced by people who endured life threatening ordeals like car accidents or heart attacks1

In 2015 each landholder spent an average of 26 days and $7200 a year on management of wild dogs1

In 2004 an estimation of livestock losses across Australia, disease transmission and control costs of wild dogs was $66.3M a year1

In 2011/12 NTCA estimated 60,000 calves and young weaners were killed or maimed due to wild dogs, costing $80M2

If half of those animals are females in the previous quote the loss of ongoing production, assuming a conservative 50% calving rate would be another 15,000 calves once those females had reached production age in each following year. If half of those 15,000 calves were steers then that is a loss of direct sale of a further 7,500 males lost for sale and 7,5000 females lost to production for each following year compounded year on year as those animals would have reached production themselves.
At current (2015) prices of $2.60 per kg for a feeder steer of 330kg to Indonesia year this is a conservative loss of an animal worth a gross value of approximately $850 each

NSW estimates losses of $50M per year due to wild dogs.

A 2009 QLD dog survey showed a presence of dogs in all QLD areas with no populations containing 100% dingo, an earlier study conducted in 2008 showed at least 85% of South East QLD dog populations were hybrid3

Animals deemed faulty can be rejected or discounted in price by up to $1/kg through Australian abattoirs4

Animals showing any form of scar or healed tissue damage due to dog attacks are rejected outright for sale into some live export markets5

11.10.2013 017_edited-1Picture 4 – This is a steer that body wise is suitable for the feeder live export markets of Indonesia or Vietnam, he is approximately 350kg. He couldn’t go to those markets because he has no tail and has scar tissue on the lower left hind leg.

We record damage to new brandings (calving’s for that year) by visual inspection of surviving animals of dog attack. Damage recorded has varied between 8-11% every year. This means that 8-11% of the animals that we capture have some form of dog damage on them, we have no idea how many are born or die directly after birth due to attacks before mustering commences. We estimate a further 10% of calves never survive to weaning due solely to dog attacks. Effectively dogs, damage or kill 20% of our calving drop for each year.

11.10.2013 032_edited-1Picture 5 – A Heifer with a healed ear. This animal has had her entire ear ripped off due to wild dogs

 The following blogs are in relation to wild dog impacts on our property and measures we take to control them.

Wild dog management on Pastoral land #2

Wild dog management on Pastoral land #3

SourceS
1. Wild dog management in Australia – AWI ABARES 2015 wp525_wild_dog_management_in_australia
2. NTCA media release
3. QLD Wild dog strategy
4. ABC rural 27/01/2015
5. Personal Experience – Jo Bloomfield.

Categories: Animal Welfare, cattle stations, Live Exports | Tags: , | Leave a comment

To all the greatest dogs in the world.

“Everyone thinks they have the coolest dog in the world, everyone is absolutely correct”
unknown author.

I don’t know a single person who hasn’t got a funny or unique story to tell about their dog. On station’s it is the same, some great conversations have been had about the stupidity, bravery and plain weirdness of some dogs. Then there are the stories of out right mateship and genuine care the dogs show in return for the love they receive. Irrespective of why dogs are as faithful as they are or why people relate and attach to them, the simple fact is dogs make life better and I just couldn’t imagine my family without one or three.

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Buddha – doing his tough guy look.

This is our family pet Buddha, an Australian Cattle stumpy tail. His job was security and entertainment. Other names he was commonly called were ‘Old man’ and ‘Fat bastard’
We purchased Buddha as a puppy in about 2009. He was a lovely affectionate dog to us, but dynamite on any visitors. That’s for good reason we sometimes get uninvited drunken people coming into our homestead hum bugging, it is not encouraged and we like forewarning these people are around. Dogs are our alarm system and a very good deterrent for repeat offenders.

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Buddha had a few curious traits, he was also dynamite on snakes, My daughter spooked a very large python once and very much out of character of this species the python stood up to my daughter and was extremely aggressive and agitated. He had her bailed up against the wall of the house. Buddha happened to be with me and when we heard her hysterical screams (always assumed to be due to a snake) we found my daughter hard up against the house with a python standing at least 40cm off the ground and increasingly focused on my daughter due to her agitation and screaming. I had little to combat the big bugger with, while I frantically searched for anything, Buddha flew around and starting nipping at the snakes tail, this was enough to move the snake’s attention and let me push an old empty bird cage (empty due to another python) onto the snake to let my daughter out. We disposed of snake and cage.

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A large Olive python, normally docile and harmless, though intimidating due to their size. This one we think had been flushed out of the river due to flood and wasn’t none too happy about it.

Another time we looked out onto our verandah and wondered why Buddha was just looking at his chair and not in it. We went to look and another python had taken his seat and curled up quiet happily, completely ignoring him. Buddha killed a number of smaller snakes around the house.

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Buddha had a fetish for cane toads, sometimes I would catch them to try to keep their population down. He’s also grabbed them and due to their poison gets a hit from them. I’d wash his mouth but he’d be like a druggie, dull eyes and odd behaviour, the next day he would be cranky and usually jumpy like he had a bad hangover. At times of the year when cane toads seem to be more frequent we would lock him up or else he became mesmerised with grabbing them. He called it his ‘toad hit’.

04.09.12 075_edited-1Buddha playing his favourite game ‘stick’

When we would get new staff if they played stick with Buddha he would accept them straight away. Until they played stick he was wary of them. Budd’s measure of a person was by how often they would play stick, you knew when he fully accepted when he bought a stick to them.

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Being the family dog can be trying, being dressed as the ‘bride’ to be. We don’t have any female dogs so Buddha drew the short straw of having to wear the veil.

We have chooks which live in a shed not far from the house and also geese and guinea fowl wandering around. Our daughters job is to feed the chooks and collect the eggs. She had forgotten to bring the egg bucket in one night and Buddha promptly ate all the eggs for that day, considering I usually have anywhere up to 20 chooks he likely ate 10-15 in one sitting. I like the geese and guineas as they keep brown ticks out of the lawns, then I don’t have to treat the dogs so much for them. Sometimes my geese will nest and dutifully Buddha would bring me their eggs, (His thinking I’m guessing is he knows he gets into trouble eating them) He just didn’t understand why I would then quickly rush and put the goose eggs back, of course then the geese would kick them out of the nest anyway. Buddha must have got sick of this, so he’d then eat them and leave the shells near the door as if to say “you’re bloody ungrateful so I’ll eat them instead”.

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Cutting up meat, the door step being the closest Buddha was allowed. The position was taken very seriously ready for any scraps until he physically couldn’t eat anymore.

Buddha’s diet was at times his undoing. I often buy a large quantity of bread and pack onto the back of the vehicle to take home. If it was a long day or a late trip we would unpack the car the next morning after arriving back. I left a box of bread on the car one night to find  the next morning several full loaves gone. One slice we found had a distinctive paw print, our daughter took very seriously the investigation of the evidence. With a criminal line up a CSI TV show would be proud of, each dog was carefully screened, examined and questioned. Budd’s paw was the one which matched it perfectly, he certainly seemed the fattest and the guiltiest.

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The famous paw shake. No one could be near a car without Buddha reaching out and wanting attention.

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Recently Buddha took ill, over a couple of days what I thought was constipation due to worms escalated in him becoming very sick to the point that I worried he would die. My family and I walked around for ages one night looking for him as we’d been concerned and it was very unusual he wandered away from his sleeping chair after dark. We found him. He was alive, dis-orientated and getting sicker. I was concerned he had major internal problems; he had no body injuries or pain points when we touched or moved him around. We thought for sure one of his old antics were coming back to haunt him, snake/toad poisoning, I was also concerned he had some sort of blockage in his gut from rubber castration rings we use on weaners. He wouldn’t eat and was drinking very little. The next morning I took him to an aboriginal community close by where some vets were doing their round of pet health checks. The vet immediately inserted a drip to rehydrate him and while he couldn’t diagnose the problem ruled out bowel obstruction or any of the sicknesses I thought he may have had, including Parvo. He thought a serious gastro problem but wasn’t sure, He confirmed Buddha was really sick and getting worse, so I continued to town, which was another 3 hours away. He was sitting on the front seat of my little truck with an IV hanging over the door. He rallied and seemed to improve so I was confident he was going to be OK. I was sure I had over-reacted; I rang the family on the satellite phone to tell them Buddha was on the mend. He wasn’t, and a few hours later, only 50km out of town Buddha died. There was nothing I could do for him then, except tell him how much he was loved and would be missed. After a time I continued to town and asked the Vet to hold him for me overnight, which they kindly did. I drove home the next day with our family pet wrapped in a tarp and ice and we buried him at home with the other ‘bestest’ dog that ever existed in a garden which everyone knew was Bronte’s spot, It is now Bronte and Buddha’s.

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So too all those great dogs out there, past, present and future. RIP Buddha you really were one of the greatest dog in the world.

Categories: Animal Welfare | Tags: ,

“Roger” – Message received.

Mustering River paddock today, I tried to take a few photos from my view on the 4 wheeler bike as we went along. We use 2 way wirelesses to communicate with each other and the chopper pilot who we hire. Most of the day is spent sitting behind cattle walking them to the yard. Occasionally the pilot will ask you to go to a place or get behind some cattle and generally the reply is “Roger”, communication jargon really, it just means I understand, I get the message.

29.05.2015 130_edited-1#1. R22 is beginning to muster.

A good part of the morning we do nothing! we wait. The chopper is working the paddock to bring groups of cattle out and we only move in behind when he needs us to help keep walking mobs along. Through this treeline is a major river system with a large waterhole. Along the entire river is many gullies and creeks with steep embankments and rocky outcrops.The gullies and scrub are impossible to get a bike through. Cattle soon realise to use trees or gullies to walk into which you have no hope to move them out of because you simply can’t get to them on the bikes. The chopper is an absolute necessity for our mustering capture effiency.

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We are mustering towards a permanent water point, a bore that the cattle know well. They will tend to follow their own walking pads out and follow the lines to the bore. Some animals will always give trouble particularly in dense and rugged country as this, and with the availability of natural waters they may be cunning and know the chopper means business. Some are very apt at hiding and knowing when to go to areas which makes it difficult to get them out of. We won’t get a 100% muster there are always some missed animals.

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The pilot works on using pressure and release. If the animals are moving in the direction he wants he’ll fly higher and hang back off them, staying the opposite side of the animal where he wants them to go. The reward to the animal is it is calmly walking and not being pressured. If the animal doesn’t go in the direction the pilot wants he will get right down low on them, using the noise and downward wind draft of the rotars to stir the trees and make noise, even a small siren at times to increase the pressure until the animal goes where the pilot needs them to move. When the choppers are doing this they remind me of an angry little bee at times. When the animal moves in the right direction the pilot will back off and give the animal space, thus the reward is the release. They move the wrong way he will put pressure on them again.

29.05.2015 159_edited-1#2. Still waiting. I usually carry a book, I read alot of stuff while waiting, or write blogs.

Some areas open up fairly well, though you still have to be careful and look out for the small termite mounds and granite rocks. It’s the small ones that catch you unawares, the size of basketballs, you don’t see them until nearly on them and if you hit them at speed they can really jerk your bike around, even tip you over. So your always looking for these mounds. Where the red spear grass is (reddish tinge where the trees begin) there are a number of small gullies that lead to the river system which is further in amongst the dense trees. These water lines are also nasty when riding as some are only about 50cm to 1m across. Deep enough that if you drove into them too fast they could cause you to actually nose dive over the top of your bike as the front wheels fall into the gullies.

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You’re not racing madly around on these areas but atleast you can see some distance to keep an eye on cattle, you can keep cattle together and this is where the pilot is generally pushing the various mobs he has moving. The chopper has been in the air a couple of hours. Our son is in the scrub there somewhere having problems with a bull, we know small mobs are starting to walk out but we haven’t seen a single beast yet.

sulky old bull

#3 Sulky old bull has bailed up.

River paddock as per its name has a whopping great river system going through it and while mostly dry at this time of year is a challenge to get a 4 wheeler around due to the topography. We get the occasional old sulky mongrel like this bloke. He’d be over 10 years old and then some, never been in a yard and he’s got the shits, he won’t walk with the mob but has the energy to belt us. Before this photo he’d already hit into my sons bike and had a go at rearing mine on its arse end by head butting the front bullbar. He’s standing in the water because he thinks we can’t get the bikes in there to get him. We left him there. We’ll see him in the future and shoot him. He’s too thin to sell and is certainly not what we want breeding with our females. Animals like this who refuse to be mustered only encourage bad behaviour of cattle. Often if one gives you trouble like this the next time you see him he’ll have friends and they will all give you trouble. The debrie in the tree to the bulls left is the water flow level of this river in the wet.

flicks Pdk

#4 Cattle starting to string along.

A relatively flat area. We’re on top of a tableland area, we will move through some drainage areas in undulating country before we hit the road and a fenceline, which the cattle will follow to the bore. We’re starting to get a few small mobs together and they are calmly following the stock pads. The chopper is still heading them in the direction of the yards about 3km away. We have just pushed these girls out from some very rough gullies and creeks and now we are heading them to other groups of cattle to the left. My son has another mob out to my right and I can hear my husband and daughter on the radio are further south with mobs already coming along a fence line heading to the road.

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The chopper will work like a large broom across the paddock flying over all us in a large arc, letting us know if we have any that have snuck off or diverted into gullies, or ones he has found standing quietly. We are all very spread out at the moment and the chopper is making sure we stay at the back of any cattle to keep them all heading in the right direction.

29.05.2015 196_edited-1#5 Cattle moving through their holding paddock

Yarding into a holding paddock, The chopper really does the majority of the work. We’re having trouble with the young bull on the far right. He was getting beat up by other bulls and doesn’t want to be part of the mob. He’s a cleanskin and starting to get fed up with the noise of the chopper and bikes. We got him in the yard.Though he needed some persuasion with our bikes to physically push him there.

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Most of the mob is cow and calves of varying ages as this is a breeder paddock. When a chopper has been working the cattle all day the animals recognise to obey it, move away when it moves to one side etc. Most of the mature cows and handled animals give no trouble and know they are going to the yards. With cleanskins or unhandled older animals sometimes moving bikes in, actually confuses the animals as they aren’t sure if they should be watching the chopper or watching you. If the animals are busy looking at who’s herding them rather than looking for the gates or following their companions they can become agitated and break away from the mob. We don’t want that to happen. We want them to follow the cattle who do know where they are going and moving into the yards.

Flicks Pdk

#6 Secure Holding paddock

We are pushing the entire mob through a double set of gates into another holding yard which then leads to our stockyards. The chopper is about 40-50m ahead of us, on the bikes we will move in a line to sit beside each other across the short laneway. The chopper yarded up without out help required.

As this is a major water point where cattle walk every day to drink, the area becomes very dusty.

The pilot will often prefer yard up without the bikes for 2 reasons.
1. Sometimes the chopper can simply do a better job. The pilots can anticipate the herd actions much better because of the view they have. We are only able to see the last few head due to dust.
2. If the chopper does need to be aggressive and come in low the pilot knows we aren’t under him or in a position that he may hit us with the rotors. This may sound silly but there have been some terrible accidents over the years of pilots yarding up, dropping very low and not realising a worker has driven under them. The rotors have hit the person on the ground killing them. If any of the cattle had turned we would have all moved in to stand and hold the cattle until they turned the right direction again, we wouldn’t have done that until the pilot knew exactly where we were and had lifted higher.

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We had a good yard up and left these cattle in this small holding paddock for a few hours to rest, this allows cows to mother up with small calves. We came back in the afternoon with our bikes but no chopper and yarded up into the stock yards ready to draft and work the cattle the next morning. We don’t leave them in the barbwire holding yards over night as some animals may try to get out and escape.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cattle station operations, Life on a property | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

ESCAS; the importance of pre-slaughter stunning of cattle prior to slaughter.

40 years ago in Australia, pre-stunning of cattle prior to slaughter, quite literally was a blow to the head, with a sledge hammer! Specialised equipment is now used to ensure stunning is maximised in effectiveness and safety for both animal and operator. I support continual improvement in animal welfare but this can only be achieved through learning, practice and research. I would prefer all Australian live cattle export markets did stunning prior to slaughter because in my view pre-stunning increases positive animal welfare outcomes, that mainly being minimization of stress and pain for each and every individual animal. There is absolutely no doubt that live export has had poor animal welfare incidents occur but it has also shown a history of significant animal welfare improvements prior to and after the implementation of ESCAS.The most important in my view for improvement in animal welfare in live export is pre-slaughter stunning. Pre-stunning is not an OIE standard but it is encouraged and strongly supported through ESCAS. All cattle slaughtered in Australia are required to be stunned pre-slaughter with provision for ritual slaughter is post-stunned.

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Stunning – What is it? Stunning is striking a very strong and specifically targeted blow to the forehead of an animal with the intention of it either being lethal or the animal loses consciousness. The brain moves back and forth inside the skull so fast and hard it collides with the skull disrupting the electrical function of the brain, like a reactionary shock, the brain reacts by shutting down and is unable to process of the stimulus of pain that it receives from nerves, the animal is unconscious. Stunning causes the animal to lose its sensibility or comprehension of what is going on around it. After being stunned the animal collapses, it is effectively ‘knocked out’. Stunning is done to prevent the feeling of pain or stress when actually slaughtered. After stunning the animals throat is cut to ensure death. Called thoracic sticking (targeting the brachycephalic trunk near the heart) or exsanguination (cut across the throat targeting main arteries and oesophagus). Once dead the animal’s meat is then processed for sale to consumers as beef.

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Where is stunning legally enforceable? Stunning is not a legal requirement in Australia but is required under standards of operation in Australian facilities. Australian Animal welfare cruelty laws are enforceable under the Animal welfare Act. These are statements of enforceable treatment of animals under a person(s) care or responsiblity. Standards and guidelines are established by Industry, they are not legislated or legal in themselves. Standards are ‘must do’ procedures whose intention is to establish clear principles that must be followed to improve and achieve animal welfare outcomes. Guidelines are simply as their name implies guidelines to best practice, they are referencing to specific circumstances and support the standards. While a standard is not law, failure to comply with it can be punishable by law under the Animal welfare Act.
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In regards to animals processed and the way they are slaughtered in Australia the Australian Standard (AS4696:2007) for slaughter of cattle in Australia states that “An animal that is stuck with, first being stunned and is not rendered unconscious as part of its ritual slaughter is stunned without delay after it is stuck to ensure that it is rendered unconscious”. Meaning that if a beast is not stunned immediately prior to having its throat cut then it must be done immediately after.

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In overseas countries to which Australian animals are processed, the Australian Standards export of Livestock (ASEL) cover the time an animal is sourced from the property of origin to the unloading at a port of delivery in another country, this is the sourcing, transport and delivery aspects of animals who are sold via live export markets. Breaches of ASEL come under the legislation of the Animal welfare Act, Exporter licensing, maritime and quarantine laws to which Australian laws have jurisdiction and reach. ASEL has been in effect since December 2004. The Exporter supply chain assurance system (ESCAS) framework is unique in that it is Australian standards applicable to Australian livestock within another countries legal capacity but is based on conformity to World Organisation for Animal health (OIE) recommendations. OIE do not stipulate a requirement of stunning in livestock slaughter. ESCAS has been in effect since July 2011 for some markets and January 2013 for all. ESCAS doesn’t stipulate stunning must be conducted but it does support its use.
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Prior to ESCAS in Indonesia 5 abattoirs conducted stunning on Australian cattle, they processed approximately 10-15% of the then animals sent to Indonesia. By the end of 2011 there were 70 abattoirs utilising stunning and accounted for 90% of Australian cattle slaughtered. By June 2013 90% of the abattoirs that processed Australian cattle use stunning, yet ESCAS does not make it mandatory that they do this. The implementation of stunning has led to faster and more efficient processing.

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Is stunning necessary? Stunning at slaughter has a number of purposes, the main one is to minimise stress to the animal. The aim is that an animal doesn’t know or feel any pain when its throat is cut. Stunning makes the animal more manageable and can in many cases increase the speed of death and efficiency of the killing of the animal. Minimising the animal movements and increasing handability significantly increases workers safety  because it is not struggling or panicking due to pain, stress or loss of blood. Handling factors prior to death can also affect meat quality due to hormones and adrenaline, a less stressed animal prior to slaughter has better quality meat cuts when processed, thus stunning can minimise the amount of stress hormones the animal may experience during death and achieve a more efficient death and better meat tenderness.

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Examples of stunning.

This is a short video available off the net in regards to non-penetrative stunning

This is a video released by the live export industry in relation to stunning equipment training and  used in facilities  that receive Australian cattle.

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Types of Stunning procedures. Pre Stunning is stunning of the animal before the throat cut and is most commonly used in Australia and overseas abattoirs receiving Australian cattle. Post stunning is done after the throat cut and is performed in Australia. No stunning at all prior or during slaughter is conducted in some overseas abattoirs receiving Australian cattle.

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In the 1970’s it was common in some Australian abattoirs to use a sledgehammer to pre-stun cattle, crude but effective! One solid wack and the animal was unconscious. Hand held devices or knockers have been used for many years now, they were not reliant on an outside power or generator source and as their name suggests, held with one hand, they were light and manuvable. The first installed knockers were literally modified nail guns, these were found to not have the necessary bolt action speed though and  heavier and stronger versions were developed, specifically built for the intended purpose of stunning stock. Guns were used in some facilities but recoil and OH &S was a significant problem, obviously a long range projectile capable of killing bystanders. Many facilities have a stand by knocker, years ago the gun was the standby, particularly for abattoirs that were remote or the animals unusually wild and difficult to manage. for example large bulls and buffalo.

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Prior to large pneumatic systems most knockers used a cartridge driven captive bolt, it was powered by blank cartridges with gunpowder, but no bullet. Heavier cartridges were used for heavier boned animals such as bulls. As Halal slaughter requires a ‘non-penetrating’ stun most of these devices  that did penetrate and were lethal were not suitable. Halal slaughter cattle in Australia were not pre-stunned until the mid-1980’s when electrical stunning and non-penetrative stunning was developed and implemented.

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There are mainly 2 forms of stunning, mechanical and electrical. In this post I’m looking at overseas markets in which mechanical methods are used. These are in 2 forms, captive bolt or a free projectile. A captive bolt stunner is a steel bolt that moves inside a barrel without being able to leave the barrel, it has a mushroom head that hits the skull. Propulsion is via electricity, gas, pneumatic (high pressure air) and cartridge (gun powder). A free projectile is like a bullet from a gun. Captive bolt in a fraction of a second transfers kinetic energy to the skull of the animal by striking its skull very hard and then retracts.  In some cases the stun can cause instant death, others are purposely ‘recoverable’.

1.1 Captive bolt stunning

Source – Beef Cattle Production and Trade. Cottle, Kahn 2014.

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A penetrative stun is where the bolt enters the skull and effectively brain kills the animal instantly, Non-penetrative doesn’t penetrate through the bone and is meant to be a recoverable concussion. The animal is instantly ‘knocked out’ but could theoretically recover if its throat isn’t cut after some period of time. The non-penetrative bolt system is the most commonly used in abattoirs that require Halal slaughter requirements, such as those in Indonesia.

1.2 Indonesia stunning.

Insert – Indonesian abattoir stunning equipment. The stunning equipment is hanging at the top left of the kill box that has its side door currently open.

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Under OIE standards pre stunning of cattle is not a pre requisite of animal welfare requirements. ESCAS is based on OIE. Irrespective of OIE, ESCAS handling guidelines do encourage pre-stunning of animals. Following the June 2011 live export ban the Australian government offered assistance on a 3:1 basis to fund and implement stunning in many facilities. Exporters had to invest $3 for every $1 that they received in grants. Many exporters invested far greater volumes of funds than the $3 to improve infrastructure, equipment and training of personal.

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Installation of stunning equipment was a significant problem in some Indonesian abattoirs due to lack of numbers of animals that they would process. For many who only processed a small number of animals such as 3-10 head the installation of a $20,000 piece of equipment, which is the value of many individual stunners was a significant cost consideration. The installation of stunning equipment was initiated in many ways by the exporters and through their influence has shown how it can initiate better management of cattle and increased safety of workers. Due to these benefits some exporters are assisting importing countries to install stunners for use in their own abattoirs for use on local cattle.

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I think most people would expect me to do my absolute best to look after the animals I have on our property, but recognise that I can’t give a guarantee that I can achieve good animal welfare 100% in every situation. I have similar expectations of exporters who export my cattle, I expect them to do their utmost best at all times, with animal welfare their paramount concern but realise that there will be times when not all animals will have good welfare experiences. Due sometimes to circumstances out of exporters control. I’m not saying these are acceptable reasons for compliance breach but they are going to occur and we need to have understanding how to minimise those occurrences to maximise the effectiveness of ESCAS. Increasing of stunning of cattle in which Australian sourced cattle are sourced for slaughter is a major step in improving animal welfare obligations of the exporters. I applaud those exporters who have taken the steps to ensure stunning is used in their supply chains.

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Training and education is the key to all ESCAS compliance. As animal welfare improvements have evolved and increased within Australia to the high standards we now expect, so will ESCAS. It is pro-active in the improvement and implementation of animal welfare for Australian cattle overseas. I support improvements to ESCAS which includes ability of exporters to be compliant to it by efficiency and cost reduction that will not affect animal welfare outcomes. There is absolutely no point in having a system so overly regulated that it is unable to be compliant in the paper-trial reporting if improvements can be made in these areas.

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Everyone needs money, I make mine producing cattle for their beef production, We choose to sell to live export because fundamentally, that is a financially better proposition than selling to Australian processors and has been the case for many northern producers over the 100 years of live export from Australia. We make the conscientious decision to  sell our cattle to supply chains that have stunning. This is not saying that those who supply lines that don’t use stunning are not ESCAS compliant, it is simply a personal preference of my husband and myself that we prefer our cattle to be stunned prior to slaughter.

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Can I prove that this occurs unequivocally to you? No!

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Have I followed my own cattle through an overseas abattoir? No!

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Therefore you simply have to take my word that every time we sell cattle I try to establish who is buying them, where they are going and ask about their destinations procedures. I then follow that with my own research and as best I can stay up to date on developments and issues surrounding live export of cattle. I do hope to travel overseas and see where our animals are processed for myself; but family and business commitments mean this is very difficult for me to do.

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Some Indonesian abattoirs were not killing efficiently or well that were filmed in late 2010 early 2011, the methods of roping and throat cutting that was conducted prior too, and up to that point were not acceptable. Those incidents highlighted then fell well short of acceptable animal welfare practices. There is no doubt that some animals I have sent in previous years to Indonesia would have had their throats cut without pre-stunning and suffered pain and stress because of poor handling and lack of skills prior to and during slaughter as they died. That saddens me as I know how quiet and well behaved most of our cattle are. My husband and I rate the manageability of our animals as one of our greatest assets, to know our animals were so poorly treated was and still is distressing.

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I aim to provide the future cattle we sell as assured of pre stunning before slaughter as a self imposed animal welfare requirement. Selling to Australian meat processors isn’t financially viable for us for the majority of our cattle sales; I will not destroy our business and families future over issues in live export based on past experiences which are fixable and controllable. I continue to supply cattle to live export because the exporter(s) we deal through strive to meet their obligations and requirements under the ESCAS system. While I see the short comings of the fact that one country (us) can’t regulate legislatively another due to sovereign rights, I believe ESCAS has proven that we can and do initate and promote then direct by implementation high animal welfare standards in other countries.

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There is absolutely no doubt we had to improve the welfare of Australian cattle slaughter processes in some supply chains in importing countries. ESCAS as implemented by the exporters has achieved those improvements. An animal has to die to be eaten, the process of the slaughter is what is significantly important, it must be efficient, effective and most of all induces minimal stress on the animal though obviously causing death.

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Improvements in animal welfare overseas has been by way of co-operation, learning and assistance, we have to keep persevering to improve animal welfare, we’ve lost markets, we’ve upset international relations, and we still have those in the industry that don’t think animal welfare is paramount all the way through a supply chain. Commendably most exporters have significantly improved animal welfare and proved it can be done consistently with long term and on-going results. Animal welfare processes were always adequate in some supply chains in others they were not. Point of slaughter was the main problem with most animal welfare issues, the shipping, transport, feedlotting and handling have always been of a high standard, slaughter through stunning has  significantly increased animal welfare for the animals now sent to live export.

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There are some within the industry that still don’t support ESCAS, they do see the animal as only a legal entity and at point of sale we no longer have responsibility for it in its entirety. That is wrong! While personally I may not be legally responsible for the animal in Australia once I have sold it. I expect that the people I sell to, will adhere to animal welfare standards and guidelines that are best practice for that animal through it entire life. In Live export I have the same expectation by the overarching standards is ASEL and ESCAS. I like the fact that there are now standards in place for exporters from the port of delivery to slaughter, there are guidelines, they know exactly what is required of them and as a producer I expect those requirements to be met. I support ESCAS, I support exporters who abide by ESCAS and believe those that do it well should receive recognition and congratulations for it. I support ESCAS improvements in both efficiency and report capability. ESCAS has to be useable to be most effective, that is a flowing cycle of planning, implementation and monitoring.

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I support significant and severe repercussions to be enforced on those who make repetitive critical breaches of compliance in the one supply chain in regards to ASEL and ESCAS. I believe ESCAS has moved beyond the learning initial implementation stage now, it is well understood and what its requirements are. I support the authorities to significantly fine and withdraw the licences of those exporters who do not show complete commitment to adherence and compliance. If they are given the chance to correct problems and don’t then they should be forcibly removed from that supply line.

I believe stunning has increased animal welfare outcomes for Australian animals even though it has not been a compulsory part of ESCAS, I don’t think it should be made compulsory but do believe it should be encouraged and supported.

Categories: Agriculture laws, Beef Industry, Indonesian abattoirs, Live Exports, pre slaughter stunning, stunning in slaughter | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Animals Australia Financials ending 2014

These financial documents were obtained through the Victorian consumer commision.

AA financials ending 2014.

Info page._edited-1Image #1 – Summary of Animals Australia Financials 2013-14

Income 13_14_edited-1

Image #2 Animals Australia Income 2013-14

Expenses 13_14_edited-1

Image #3. Animals Australia Expenses 2013-14

Categories: AA Financials, Animals Australia, Live Exports | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Hay & Fodder Suppliers to Live animal export.

For every $1M the NT beef industry generated in 2012/13 it created another $510,000 within the NT economy.

For every 100 jobs held in the NT beef industry another 36 are created in the NT economy alone.

(NT DPIF Outlook 2013)

I began writing this blog about service providers to the Live export industry but then realised I couldn’t really do that without showing the fluctuations in the live export markets and how that impact affected producers and thus the flow on to service providers.

Therefore I have broken the post into 2 sections.
1. NT Live cattle export – Darwin
2. Hay & Fodder Suppliers to Live animal export.

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I have not addressed animal welfare issues in these posts as I am working on some other blogs to address that.

Some service providers are paid arranged set prices for the goods they may supply such as hay or retail goods. Others  rely on commissions in the form of percentages of the gross dollars earned or rates of pay in regards to volumes of animals handled. e.g stock agents. Transporters are paid on a basis of volume carried and the distances they transport the stock on a kilometre rate travelled. Hay producers can be paid either per tonnage or rate of pay per bale supplied.

This post mainly focus’ on the fodder service providers to the NT live animal export industry.

The NT fodder industry has grown steadily in the last 18 years in line with the export of live cattle from the NT

Darwin LE v's Fodder_edited-1Chart 1. Live export of cattle from the Darwin port and the tonnage production of hay and fodder in the NT.

Fodder production_edited-1Chart 2. Production of hay, fodder and Silage in the NT and their combined value.

The most common pastures grown for hay production in the north of the NT are Jarra  and Cavalcade. Some forage sorghum’s that are suited to the tropics are also used to produce hay, these being Sudan and Sweet Sorghum.

Fodder production in the NT main problems are climate, weed management and nitrogen deficiency in the soils but also experience similar issues to any other cropping enterprise, poor rain seasons, insects, fire and costs of plant and equipment.

Many hay producers were impacted by the ban in June 2011, yet most didn’t produce cattle. Like us, the cattle producers, many hay growers wondered if their business’s were finished in 2011, as some of us thought ours may be. Now in 2014 they simply can’t supply enough hay for the movement of cattle that is now occurring through the NT’s only port Darwin.
Like us fodder suppliers faced difficulties in holding supply and stock in 2011. Now having unexpected market increases and demand for their product due to significant market improvement and influx of other states cattle, 2014 sees NT suppliers purchasing fodder from other states to ensure demands are met.

14.09.2014 055_edited-1Pic 3. Hay production, round bale production on natural pasture. South of Katherine. These are the bales we prefer to use simply for ability to lift and use with the smaller machinery we have, and our requirement to feed different small yardings of animals at any one time.

Hay growers produce round or large square bales. Cattle breeders feed these on their properties when handling weaners, working cattle and also to feed cattle intended for sale prior to transport.
On the one hand producers generally give an indication of how many bales they would like to purchase in pre-set agreements. On the other you can never be really sure how many bales you will go through. With the wet occurring late this year (time of writing November 2014) we were feeding hay for much longer period to young cattle than we had originally intended at the end of the dry season. This is a necessary cost we are willing to wear as these weaners could lose too much condition and possibly die without extra feeding. How much longer we will need to feed it is anyone’s guess and depends on the weather gods. We use round bales that weigh about 200kg and are convenient for us to handle.(Early December 2014 we have received some good early wet season storms). Square bales are much larger and heavier and are preferred by many producers. Economically the square bales are more cost-effective to transport and handle but they can weigh up to 500kg each.

06.06.13 012_weaners _edited-1

Pic 4. Weaners being fed hay. A round bale rolled out. An important practice to teach them handling ability and to learn that hay is food. Feeding hay to animals quietens them and desensitizes them to people.

The NT had a short history of silage production. I haven’t been able to find why this was discontinued.

Hay growers also supply hay to pre-export yards, which process the hay and mix it with other foodstuffs to process into pellets and fed in bunkers similar to feedlots, the cattle also eat the bales directly. Supply numbers to pre-export yards would be very difficult to estimate as some markets and cattle to be processed simply couldn’t be forecast with accuracy more than a few months from when orders are actually realised.
While export yards may have contracts and some degree of idea of numbers they work on, like us they can only store and handle so much hay at any one time, and like us are not likely to know forward export requirements by more than 6 months at best. There is no set pattern of which port a ship or country may obtain cattle from and exporters may rely on regional supply of cattle and the type of animal they require at the time, prior to announcing schedules of shipping.

To illustrate the variance from which port cattle may be exported to the same country I have used Indonesia as the common destination in the 2 following charts.

Northern ports exports._edited-1Chart 5. Cattle exported from the main north Australian ports to Indonesia.

Untitled_edited-1Chart 6. Cattle exported from other Australian ports to Indonesia.

27.11.2013 136_edited-1

Pic.7 Large Square bales being fed to export cattle in a pre-export yard south of Darwin. Square bales are approximately 3 times the weight of round bales. These cattle are also fed shipping pellets to prepare for export transport.

Fodder companies utilise hay to process into pellets, which is transported and used in the pre-export yards and on the ships as the animals’ transverse the sea. Supply to the export yards and shipping facilities is a 100% of their business for some fodder suppliers.

Livestock fodder currently loaded onto 5 carriers berthing at the Darwin port through December 2014 are estimated to be worth $1.3M on its own.

27.11.2013 153_edited-1

Pic. 8. Shipper pellets. Pulverized hay with other grain and fodder supplements, mixed with molasses to form pellets are transported in large ton sized bulk bags to ports for loading to ships. These are fed to cattle pre-export and while on the ships in transit.

Those who specialise in hay production have invested often many years in clearing and developing paddocks to suit their crop types, irrigation, machinery and general soil condition to optimise their cropping harvest abilities.
Most cropping for hay production relies on the wet season rainfall. Planting generally happens about November/December, with the pastures growing through the summer wet months, cutting and baling happening from March on wards through the dry season. Natural pasture production areas may be baled later in the year July through to September.
Peak demand for hay is through the dry with the mustering of cattle and the highest activity of the ships loading at the port.
At times hay producers are left with surplus supplies from the dry season of bales for which they still have on property and need to protect over the wet seasons. To maintain the integrity of the nutritional value of the fodder it is important that it is covered to protect it from water logging. Bales kept dry will be suitable for sale at a later date and therefore valuable to the grower as future income. Wet bales are worthless for fodder, In fact even dampness in bales can cause mould which can then be extremely dangerous for animals to consume.

Rainfall averages of Katherine’s 2.4m and Darwin 3.2m combined with high humidity and temperatures of the top end through the wet would soon turn large uncovered haystacks into soggy, hot and rotting piles of worthless gunk. I have left a hay bale in my garden for mulch as a full bale over one wet and actually seen it was fly blown due to it being perfect conditions for the maggots to survive moisture and temperature.

hay 001

Pic 9. Source. NT DPI stacking and storing hay. An example of large square bales stack with a tarpaulin cover to protect the hay from water logging through the wet season.

2008 had been a very low fodder production year, with below average rainfalls and ownership of some properties deciding to discontinue hay production.
2009 saw increased production of fodder but with a surplus of supply, some had to store hay over the 09/10 wet.
09/10 wet was a late finish for rains received which enabled record production, but the following wet 10/11 set in early meaning again some producers had surplus hay to demands and had to store it over the wet. The Indonesian imposed import quotas were also having a negative effect on demand due to the fact that the numbers of cattle being exported were in decline.
The 2010/2011 wet season had been a very good season for hay growers as it was a consistent rainfall event allowing for large tonnage of hay to be produced at 83,230t and valued at $19M. Some producers of natural pastures chose not to bale due to reduced demand because of the live export ban.
When the ban of live export to Indonesia occurred, June 2011. The export yards and ships stopped, many hay producers were left holding thousands of tonnes of bales that had been pre-ordered but suddenly those orders were cancelled or had been post-phoned. 2011/12 values of fodder dropped to $13.9M. Many growers had been left with excess bales from 2011 and didn’t want to bale more hay which they possibly couldn’t sell due to the uncertainty of markets at the time, therefore some pastures were left standing in paddocks.

A cubing plant located in Katherine, who had just finished substantial multimillion dollar upgrades, had operational and commitment costs to purchase hay of $500,000 per month when the ban occurred in 2011. They had two full road trains loaded and ready to leave the facility to transport the fodder to ships waiting to load cattle the very day the ban was invoked. Those truck orders were immediately cancelled and the fodder never even left the cubing plant. They had over 8,000 tonnes of hay on site ready to be processed for the coming season’s activity and yet they then had no orders.
The plant had to prepare for what they would do with the hay over the wet if it wasn’t processed. They didn’t have enough tarps to cover the stacks if it wasn’t utilised. Therefore to be prepared for the wet and allow manufacture time they had to order tarps in June, at a cost of over $8,000 each, they needed 10 of them. Some growers didn’t have the cash funds for tarps and simply left the bales to rot.
The cubing plant estimated it lost 90% of its sales within days of the ban being invoked, including subsequent price drops. Then they had to endure undercutting from interstate fodder suppliers when the cattle started to move in late 2011, everyone was desperate to shift their produce!
The plant had expected to use 2,000 tonnes of hay a month to process, but actually only processed 300 tonnes a month for several months following the ban. After the ban was lifted they supplied 3-4 boats a month, prior to the ban they had budgeted supplying 4 a week.
A contract hay baler who would travel with his equipment to properties around Katherine went from producing 30,000 large square bales in the 2010 season to only 10,000 in 2011 due to cancelled work. This cost his business, immediately! Over half a million dollars in lost income. People didn’t want to go to the expense of baling hay which probably couldn’t be sold, if they didn’t have tarp coverage for the hay it would deteriorate over the wet season and be of little value the following year.
Many hay producers immediately felt the financial strain of lost income when the ban occurred; they now had few outlets to sell too. This was increased when the 2011/12 wet season approached and large stands of hay stacks remained uncovered in paddocks or yards. Most didn’t have tarps.
As producers, like ourselves we were extremely wary of market improvements in the coming 2012 and 2013 years. We had been abandoned by the government when they had implemented the ban and the mood in general of market improvement was one of scepticism and wariness. Add to that the phone tapping scandals and poor intergovernmental relations between Indonesia and Australia. It appeared the Australian government wasn’t too concerned about re-establishment of good trade relations. It was hoped markets would improve but it wasn’t going to be quick, relationships were being rebuilt but it was a slow process, Cattle producers realised ESCAS would take time to develop and implement. So we waited. When Indonesia and other markets did open up late in 2011 and throughout 2012 the specifications of requirements for cattle were stringent and this also limited export numbers.
We slashed our budgets accordingly, which meant we curtailed any spending to only what was absolutely necessary. Hay orders were kept to the minimum as we simply didn’t handle many selling animals and they were returned to paddocks if markets weren’t available. We simply didn’t buy our normal levels of orders for steel, animal health, fencing equipment and machinery repairs.
The hay producers followed suit, they didn’t plant much when the planting period of November / December came and went over the 12/13 wet. and they knew if we were not going to shift cattle then they also would have limited markets to sell too and thus income. A few years previously the 12/13 year had been forecast to have fodder value at $14.8M, in reality it achieved only $12.4M.
We were all highly stressed and we were in self-preservation mode.
If we were going to go broke, we were taking a lot of others with us, not intentionally, but we were all linked. The thing was, we had to hold off going broke as best we could because we couldn’t sell our property on a sliding property market with poor prospects of live export for trade. So we did hope that markets come back because there’s really nothing else we could do but simply ride it out.
The hay producers in 12/13 wet again limited the planted areas to hay production. The wet season was below average with rainfall occurring in deluges then with long periods of dry spells in between. This caused poor germination and affected plant viability, some crops failed all together. Production was down for the coming 2013 dry season as the fodder was simply not as dense as usual and proteins levels had been affected. Fodder shortages did occur late in the dry season of 2013.
Cattle markets steadily improved in 2013 for live export cattle producers and there were murmurs of easing of the import quotas from Indonesia and substantial orders to Vietnam, but they hadn’t come on-line at that stage and prices while increasing were still only at break even. People were optimistically cautious.
2013 saw Indonesia presidency elections in full swing, with quiet acknowledgement that their self-efficiency would not be attainable in the short-term. In fact people were demanding meat and the governments needed to increase imports to meet their people’s demands. They implemented quotas based on the pricing of secondary cuts on their own wet meat markets late 2013 and into 2014. Vietnam was giving strong indications of not only surpassing their previous year’s cattle purchases but tripling them in 2014. We were optimistic, but the proof is only when the orders are called.
Hay producers again held back extensive planting for the 13/14 period. Cattle producers viewed reports of massive market number requirements with healthy scepticism, the growers wanted to actually see numbers shipped before they would commit themselves to large plantings.
2014 was a turnaround for live export for the cattle producers. The majority of Australia was in severe drought, cattle turnoff, including females was exceeding previous records dating back many years, cattle producers weren’t only selling normal stock they were selling breeders because of feed shortages. QLD and northern NSW was processing 11% higher than in 2013, southern states processing 23% higher(Weekly times 29/10/2014). The Australian processors were flooded with cattle and dropped their prices accordingly.

We finally had some serious competition in markets for cattle, Vietnam orders had materialised and Indonesia was importing near record numbers. Prices were above $2.00/kg and remaining stable. Other states producers were sending cattle to live export who had never live exported in their lives, the ability to sell feeder animals in a light weight of less than 350kg was a god send to some for income, otherwise they had no where else to sell. some meat processors were taking bookings months ahead with no quotation of prices. Live export was enabling many producers an income that was paramount to their financial survival, half of the 415,000 exported from the Darwin port at the end of October 2014 were from QLD.

This has placed un-prepared for demand for hay and fodder in the areas that supply the export yards, ships and general spelling of cattle, No only Darwin but spelling yards such as Cloncurry where animals were transited all needed hay.
2014 has seen such a massive demand for fodder that the hay producers in the north have been cleaned out and have received good prices. This is good for them and hopefully means many of them can regain some serious income going into 2015 as they conduct plantings now with the live export markets positive for the coming year.
The interesting things is, that Katherine cubing plant has had to truck in so much hay from down south to keep up with demand, they have dedicated 3-4 full road trains a week only for hay cartage. This has meant the cost of production has actually kept their profit margins down. They have seen producers leave the industry and the whole landscape and changed since the ban. After the ban the plant had so much hay in storage they didn’t buy any fodder off local suppliers in 2011 or 2012. This affected locals badly whose income was hay production, some sold up and left the industry entirely.
Recent articles concerning hay  looks positive for good market supply of hay for the coming year. Ironically I hope the increased demand for hay doesn’t mean that cattle producers can’t afford to buy it. Quiet simply we can’t operate without hay. As my husband would say “ hay is worth a couple of good men”. We need to have market accessibility and competition to achieve sustainable beef production. We also need our service providers.

Categories: Beef Industry, Cattle station, Darwin live cattle export, Dry Season, Hay and fodder production, Live Exports, Northern Territory., Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Northern Territory Live Cattle export – Darwin

For every $1M the NT beef industry generated in 2012/13 it created another $510,000 within the NT economy.

For every 100 jobs held in the NT beef industry another 36 are created in the NT economy alone.

(NT DPIF Outlook 2013)

I began writing this blog about service providers to the Live export industry but then realised I couldn’t really do that without showing the fluctuations in the live export markets and how that impact affected producers and thus the flow on to service providers.

Therefore I have broken this topic into 2.
1. NT Live cattle export – Darwin
2. Hay & Fodder Suppliers to Live animal export.

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I have not addressed animal welfare issues in these posts as I am working on some other blogs to address that.

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Service providers to the Northern Territory live cattle export industry may not directly own cattle, but they fulfil a very important role to enable cattle production. They are many and varied, including fodder producers who grow and provide hay. Transporters , fuel providers or they supply goods and direct services, like stock agents or veterinarians. Without these service providers direct cattle producers simply wouldn’t have the capabilities to operate and conduct, our business of cattle breeding.

Ripple effect June 2011_edited-1

Chart 1. Ripple map illustrating the effects that the income of a live export producer has on the service industries and suppliers, in turn the cattle producers heavily rely on these other industries.

 As livestock numbers and the value of cattle fluctuate by direct income to producers, that in turn affects the direct supply and demand requirements of supplies.

Within the Northern Territory cattle industry there were, according to ABARES at the end of 2013, approximately 2 million cattle located in the NT. This is about 15% of the total Australian Beef herd.

NT Herd_edited-1

Chart 2. The NT Beef herd showing the long-term increase of the Mature female component and the total beef herd in the NT. Gradual increases have occurred since the mid 90’s due to better management and productivity practices and stronger influence of the Bos Indicus breeds.

600,000 sale animals are turned off annually from the NT; on average half go to live export and the other half to slaughter processors, or other producers in Australia.

NT Cattle Production_edited-2Chart 3. Source DPI & F overview Outlook 2013
Northern Territory Cattle – Value of production 2000-01 to 2017-18

2012 /13 Output cattle value of production for only NT origin cattle was $307.4M , including live exports and slaughter. For every $1M the NT beef industry generated in 2012/13 it created another $510,000 within the NT economy. For every 100 jobs held in the NT beef industry another 36 are created in the NT economy alone. (NT DPIF Outlook 2013). The beef industry dominates agricultural and fisheries production in the NT.

NT beef production operates on mostly natural open rangeland land systems dependent on natural rainfall occurrences. The Simpson and Great Sandy Deserts are located in the south, with very hot and dry climates and rainfall averages of 150mm per annum but very fertile soils. Contrastively the northern high rainfall tropics experience a distinctive high rainfall period and dry season with rainfall measurements of over 3m per annum with generally lower fertility soils.

Nt rainfall_edited-1Chart 4. The rainfall averages for the NT

NT map_edited-1Chart 5. NT map of Agriculture land uses.

 To illustrate how live export markets have fluctuated over the last several years the following statistics are based on predominantly the live export of cattle from the Northern Territories only port, Darwin.

Darwin total cattle_edited-1Chart 5. The tally of only cattle that have been exported through the Darwin Port 2009 – 2014 (Nov) to all destinations.

Darwin exports 09_11_edited-1Darwin exports 12_14_edited-1

Charts 6 & 7. All cattle exported from Darwin. This is the exact same data as chart 5

Darwin other animals._edited-1Chart 8. Other animals live exported from the Darwin Port. 2009-2014

High cattle numbers exported don’t necessarily mean more money earned per individual animal, producers are paid on a kilogram live basis on delivery of the animals, the price is dependent on current market situations.

Livelink 001Chart 9. Source LiveCorp. Livelink November 2014. Australian saleyard and live cattle prices. At $1.50/kg in 2013 a 330kg animal was gross value of $495, in 2014 at $2.60 that same weighted animal is now worth $858, 73% more than just 12 months previously.

In reference to the above chart  NT DPI quoted no prices for records for live animals. In May of 2011 the market was approximately $1.65/kg. When the Indonesian live export ban was implemented June 6, 2011 only the cattle already on the water (2713 hd) were recorded, nil export occurred to Indonesia in July 2011. Prior to June 2011 at least 21,000 head were transported to Indonesia every single month for the previous 4 years. Many of the cattle exported immediately after the lifting of the ban in July 2011 were already pre-contracted prior to June and therefore not relevant to pricing after.. Personally, with difficulty to even find space on ships. ABARES predicted at July 2011 there were 365,000 unsold export cattle unsold (QLD CL 28/07/2011). we were able to sell some cattle to Indonesian markets in late 2011 and the price was again $1.65/kg late in the year. It  was near impossible to sell cattle during the period of July to September. So many cattle were already in the ports supply region that stock agents weren’t even able to give producers prices because the exporters were simply not requiring more cattle to fill orders.

High livestock numbers does mean an increase in demand of goods such as hay and transport from service providers. These numbers have to be moving though. Many producers simply didn’t sell cattle and some didn’t even muster if they knew they couldn’t find markets.

Fluctuations, stoppages, increases and decreases in live cattle market demand has been impacted by many factors, some in conjunction and others significant in their own right. The following are not in any particular order and should not be considered as stand alone pressures that work independently to affect markets.

Import and live weight quotas by Indonesia were introduced in 2010 to attempt to obtain self sufficiency in beef production and consumption in that country. By the end of 2013  local Indonesian wet market prices increases had resulted in the significant easing of the policies as their government realised that 100% beef self sufficiency wasn’t possible in the short-term. A different quota system was introduced in 2014 dependent on pricing of secondary meat cuts in the wet markets. The trigger price is 76,000 Rp/kg ($7.43 AUS). If the local wet markets fall below this price, reductions will be made to limit import cattle and beef  into Indonesia. This is hoped to protect their own beef producers from oversupply by Australia and yet enable surety of beef supply for their nation’s consumption.

Indonesia. Import quotas_edited-1Chart 10. All  cattle exported to Indonesia from all Australian ports. Indonesian import quotas for live cattle were predominantly for feeder types >350kg. In 2014 part of the allocation was for heavier slaughter  and breeder cattle.

The Darwin port has handled approximately 40% of all Australian cattle exports for the last several years and exported 60% of those destined for South east Asia in 2013. While some say the export quotas were the most restrictive of live export numbers, at least in 2011 a quota is still a quota and some degree of market. The ban was a complete stoppage. On going effects of the Australian decisions did untold damage to relations at the time and are only now being significantly rebuilt. Prior to 2011 market analysts have assessed that the Indonesian self sufficiency targets were unobtainable for years, proven by the fact that the target dates themselves were often extended. Report opinions were that it was a matter of time before demand from local Indonesians would pressure their government to allow increased imports of beef and live animals.

Following the Indonesian live export ban it was significant that other markets were able to be increased to Vietnam that accepted heavier types of cattle than what Indonesia preferred.

Darwin major destinations._edited-1Chart 11. Major Destinations for Cattle from the Darwin Port.

Other factors impacting on markets are currency fluctuations, weather patterns, economies within Australia and other countries, currency exchange rates, animal type requirement in breed, weight and sex, animal values, ESCAS implementation and cost, competition from other countries and the Australian meat processing sector, health protocols and change in requirements of the importing countries for both type and volume of animals.

Darwin is the only live animal export facility for the NT, some of the service providers in the NT may service other states like QLD and WA.

2014 cattle that have been moved through the Darwin port have regularly been double of the average for the combined preceding 5 years. This is significant because previously most cattle from Darwin were NT sourced, in 2014 that was not the case.

Darwin 5 yr averages_edited-1
Chart 12. Darwin live cattle export numbers for 2014 compared to averages of the previous 5 years.

What I’m trying to show in these charts is that live cattle exports have been highly variable through the years with 2014 exploding.

A very broad estimate of about 80-90% of all Darwin cattle exported for the previous 5 years (Not including 2014) were sourced from  NT properties. 2014 has seen the NT supply portion drop to about 65%, as the Darwin port has received significant influx of cattle transported from SA, NSW and QLD. A news article in regarding October exports stated that of the previous few months cattle exports over half had been supplied from QLD.

The flow of cattle coming from other states will be assisting service providers to the industry but it takes time to grow and produce fodder and meet the demand requirements.

How predictable are future live cattle export markets? Goodness, how long is a piece of string!
Indonesia’s issuing of import permits will depend on the new system which they have developed with the base price of 76,000Rp. At the moment Indonesian import permits for 2015 have not been released and meat prices are trading over Rp 100,000 per kg. It is expected that Indonesia will increase its cattle and beef imports above 2014 figures.
In the MLA Beef Industry forecasts, Cattle industry projections mid year 2014 the live export markets are expected to remain relatively stable in overall numbers as to what was then forecast to be exported in 2014. Markets in Vietnam, Israel and now possibly Thailand and China are looking promising for requiring significant numbers of live cattle.

Forecasts 2015_edited-2

The main restriction on the numbers to export may will sourcing cattle, given the huge turnoff in Australian slaughter and live export for 2013 and throughout 2014.
For cattle producers this gives us some degree of confidence that markets will be relatively good in 2015, with forecasts of good prices to go with it. Production wise we don’t change quickly as it takes time to build up numbers to take advantage of market access. What it does mean is that we focus on making sure the cattle we do have, meet the required specifications of what the markets demand.
If the cattle producers have confidence that markets are going to be consistent and improve then we will also be buying up on the goods and services that we need to place our animals in the best health production and presentation wise to ensure we can receive the optimum prices we can for the immediate future and going into the coming years.
So where has this led our service providers such as the hay and fodder production people?

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Categories: Beef Industry, Cattle station, Darwin live cattle export, Live Exports, Northern Territory. | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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