I feel like an age has passed since I last sat down to write. But it hasn't...I've just undergone a massive transformation.
Some of you may know this, and some may not.
I'm on a serious mission to make a radio documentary...which is going to change the world. (Well a bit of it).
I've finished LiveCorp's Accredited Stockperson training course*, which was a critical step for me towards making the Shipping Project radio doco on the live export food chain. I can categorically say I went from having a partial understanding of how the industry operated, to having a comprehensive understanding of it. I once thought I'd just turn up to the dock with my recording equipment and a sun hat and I'd be off.
You: I have a livestock carrier with 3500sq meters of space for cattle, and I want to export a load of southern Australian Bos taurus steers which average 470kgs for a journey that takes six days, setting off from a port south of latitude 26° in February. Can you tell me the maximum number of beasts I am permitted to take under the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL), and how much feed I'll need to take to get there on a 2% body weight daily feeding regimen?
You: But Geire, last week you didn't even know what a Bos taurus was?
Me: I KNOW!
This is an intensive course for people who want to look after livestock in the export industry. It was attended by people of varying backgrounds and levels of experience. There were people who already work in exports. There were stockmen, people from cattle stations, feedlots, industry bodies, farms, a lovely guy from Indonesia with heaps of interesting experiences, two Filipino stockmen, someone from Europe, and people from all over Australia...even New Zealand was represented...did I mention there were five women?
We examined animal welfare. Looked at low stress stock handling, herd behaviour, mob structure, livestock senses, and effective communication with animals. We looked at the Australian standards and how they've improved conditions all over the world. We studied issues of quarantine, pre-embarkation management, animal management at sea, and discharge at destination. We looked at emergency procedures, veterinary care, and livestock disease identification and treatment.
We discussed live export in a historical context, and learnt how animals are raised in the countries we export to, population growth, international animal welfare, demand for meat, and the sophistication (dare I say it, lack there of at times) of foreign cultures.
Something that really excited me was learning about new research into animal management systems, and I want to show you this amazing video of cattle in a feedlot setting. People love to tell us that feedlots are cruel and animals are half dead and don't get fed. That is just not true. Feedlots are all about getting herding animals to do the best they can so they grow. Stressed, sick and unhappy animals do not grow. The fodder is highly researched and managed, animals are carefully handled, and they are always being monitored so there isn't competition for food. This is a great example of a rotational system where cattle get time in a sandy pen adjacent to the feedlot. You tell me if they look like they're unhappy.
Of course, this industry has taken a battering. There have definitely been instances of animals being treated in an unacceptable manner in the past, but I am not saying they were always ESCAS approved facilities either. (See here for the DAFF Investigation Report into the Animals Australia complaint which alleged non-compliance of an ESCAS approved Indonesian abattoir early in 2012 - this wasn't part of the LiveCorp course mind you, but I think it's interesting reading).
The standards (v2.3 April 2011) and the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) guidelines are incredibly thorough, and licences are not granted to exporters or overseas facilities if they don't comply with them. There are health certificates, incident response plans, marine orders, certificates for the carriage of livestock, daily reports...this is a heavily regulated industry. You don't just chuck some heifers on a boat and set sail.
But after all is said and done, I don't know yet if I have been accredited. My exam is still being marked.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering...for that journey we discussed eariler? You can take 2,073 Angus steers on your ship. You'll need to pack 175 tonne 375.8 kgs of feed for them for your 6 days, and you've got three days contingency for every animal.
And if you leave in February, you'll have just enough time to complete your paperwork if you start now.
You: What a show off.
For any information about the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock there is full transparency and all the information can be accessed here.
*Our tutors were Dr. Tony Brightling, Dr. John Lightfoot (both veterinarians with international profiles who have had long careers caring for animals during live export, as well as practices of their own), Boyd Holden (Director/Trainer of Holden Agricultural Management Systems, low-stress animal handling expert), and a great lecture with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
© Geire Kami. All Rights Reserved. Australia 2017.