Livestock carrier looks east for work

Livestock and Rural Transporters' Association of WA president Andy Jacobs said he would not be standing for re-election in July and was considering relocating interstate due to a lack of work opportunities because of changes to the live export trade.
Livestock and Rural Transporters' Association of WA president Andy Jacobs said he would not be standing for re-election in July and was considering relocating interstate due to a lack of work opportunities because of changes to the live export trade.

CHANGES to the live sheep trade over the past 12 months have taken a toll on the livestock transport industry with the latest casualty being Livestock and Rural Transporters' Association of WA (LRTAWA) president Andy Jacobs.

Mr Jacobs, who owns and operates his own small business, has been vocal about the impact of regulatory changes on livestock transporters, as well as the whole supply chain, since taking over the reigns of the LRTAWA last year.

He said with less exporters operating and the three-month moratorium on the trade from June-August "no one has any idea" what will happen to the trade.

Mr Jacobs said he won't be standing for re-election at the LRTAWA Annual Conference and AGM to be held in Busselton in July, as his business was in transition and he could end up relocating interstate due to a lack of work in WA.

"I'm finishing up," Mr Jacobs said.

"I'm taking the next six weeks to figure out what we are going to do next and my house is on the market.

"The future is uncertain because what we used to do is not going to be sustainable."

He said with Phoenix Exports (Harmony Agriculture and Food Co) and Wellard not exporting, and Livestock Shipping Services "not exporting at the same volume" as it has in the past, it only left Emanuel Exports and Rural Export and Trading WA, which dramatically reduced the long-term sustainability of transporters who were servicing the trade.

"You take Emanuels out of the market and it's gone," he said.

Mr Jacobs said some carriers had "pushed their businesses in a different direction" to be able to stay afloat.

"I'm the third guy in the last nine months to pull the plug on livestock transport in WA," he said.

"Changes to the live export trade have had an impact."

Mr Jacobs has been active in The Sheep Collective and had tried to ensure his industry was not overlooked in the debate about the live sheep trade or animal welfare reforms.

Mr Jacobs said there was still plenty of work to be done to improve the livestock transport industry and he was hoping to "go out with a bang".

He said the Coalition Government's return to office was an opportunity for the "whole industry to make things right with the public".

"Where we were before (with the prospect of a Labor Party victory), we were up against a firing squad," Mr Jacobs said.

"Now, it's an opportunity for the industry to come together to promote ag as a whole otherwise in five to 10 years we'll be going through another major issue and we'll be slowly chipped away until there's nothing left."

Mr Jacobs called on levy-funded organisations to come together to undertake an education campaign to ensure that the story of agriculture, as a whole supply chain, is told.

"It's not about politics it's about the 20 million voters out there who don't know what we do and how we do it," he said.

"This is about social license.

"It's about transparency and accountability and it's about promoting best practice across the country."

Mr Jacobs also said the livestock transport industry needed to be on the "front foot" in "adopting best practice to ensure all animals that travelled across the Nullarbor are given an 18-20 hour spell period".

"There are several choices out there at the moment with two to three spelling yards which charged a small fee of $1-$1.50 per head to provide water with electrolytes, as well as hay, and give the livestock a chance to move around and rest," he said.

"It's been happening for a while and it is common practice with some contractors, but not all.

"Agents also have a responsibility as well.

"And producers selling their stock should ask the question of whether or not the livestock will be spelled on the way across."

He said it was important for all carriers to adopt the standard to reduce the likelihood of the government stepping in and enforcing it, as it focuses on improvements to animal welfare standards.

"Some aspects of the industry are not prepared to adopt it," Mr Jacobs said.

"It is good for animal welfare and it's good for driver welfare.

"It should not be up to government to fix the industry, it is up to us to do it."

Mr Jacobs said the whole ag industry was under pressure and it needed to look at what it could do to improve.

"The general public doesn't understand the industry and so it is important that we engage in better education and create programs and campaigns around ag to gain the public's confidence," he said.