A noticeable change

Livestock | 23rd September 2021 | By Matt Dalgleish

The Snapshot

  • Prior to the introduction of the northern hemisphere summer moratorium in 2019 the annual average live sheep mortality rate was nearly 0.8%.
  • Since the moratorium has been in place, along with additional improved welfare management practices, the annual mortality has averaged just 0.2%.
  • The annual average mortality rate seen in 2020 was 0.24% and during 2021 the annual rate has averaged 0.16%.

The Detail

The live sheep export trade has made some significant steps in animal welfare improvement in recent years including investment in research on reducing heat stress, reductions in stocking rates, the introduction of a northern hemisphere summer moratorium and ensuring that exporters are responsible for the welfare of livestock through to the point of slaughter.

While improvements in animal welfare practices can be measured by a variety of methods, a key objective measurement that highlights the broadly improving welfare standards is the mortality ratio of live sheep shipments over time.

Prior to the introduction of the northern hemisphere summer moratorium in 2019 the annual average live sheep mortality rate was nearly 0.8%, as identified by the grey dotted line, with fluctuations between 0.5% to nearly 1.0% mortality between the 2005 to 2018 period. Since the moratorium has been in place, along with additional improved welfare management practices, the annual mortality has averaged just 0.2%.

Analysis of the seasonal pattern for live sheep export mortality highlights how different the current scenario is to what used to be the normal trend in monthly mortality rates over the year. Clearly the usual increase to mortality seen during the northern hemisphere summer (June, July and August) is removed with no sea transports seen during these months.

However, the mortality levels outside of the moratorium period is also significantly reduced, remaining below the normal range though could be expected for all of the 2020 and 2021 season, thus far. The annual average mortality rate seen in 2020 was 0.24% and during 2021 the annual rate has averaged 0.16%. Clearly, the management practices put in place since 2018 are clearly having an impact on mortality and welfare outcomes.

Live export industry representatives have been keen to explore the possibility of reducing the moratorium period, or allowing the sector to self manage their shipments during this time of the season. The current three month ban from June through to August places strain on the live sheep export supply chain and damages our reputation overseas as a reliable/regular supplier of top quality stock.

Surely, the industry has demonstrated their capacity to improve animal welfare outcomes and be given the opportunity to highlight this fact through the re-opening of the moratorium period.

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Tags

  • Live Sheep
  • Live export
  • Trade Issues