Kimberley export yards among those affected by Indonesia’s live cattle suspension

Kimberley export yards among those affected by Indonesia’s live cattle suspension

Western Australia’s cattle producers have been dealt another blow with the state’s northernmost export yard suspended by the Indonesian government following the detection of lumpy skin disease (LSD) in livestock shipped from Australia.

Key points:

  • Indonesia has suspended live cattle imports from Wyndham Port in Western Australia
  • It is one of four Australian export facilities under review after 13 cattle tested positive for LSD
  • Australian vets say it is unlikely the cattle contracted the disease while in Australia

Multiple industry sources have confirmed that Consolidated Pastoral Company’s (CPC) export yards, located 30 kilometres from Kununurra, are one of four facilities suspended by Indonesia.

The export yards at CPC’s Carlton Hill Station offer the main cattle throughput to allow export from the port of Wyndham.

A statement from Australia’s chief vet Mark Schipp said Australia remained free of LSD.

« The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has been advised by the Indonesian Agriculture and Quarantine Agency that LSD has been detected in a small number of Australian cattle exported to Indonesia — after those cattle had arrived and spent some time in Indonesia, » Dr Schipp said.

An aerial view of a port along a large gulf

Carlton Hill Station offers the main cattle throughput to allow export from the port of Wyndham.(ABC Kimberley: Ted O’Connor)

Peter Letchford is a Kununurra-based veterinarian who has been working to monitor for LSD outbreaks in northern Australia since the virus was first reported in livestock in Indonesia during March last year.

« Oh, it’s certainly very concerning and immediately you’re thinking, ‘Well how could that be?’, » he said.

Mr Letchford said it was near impossible that an outbreak of the virus could have originated in four different Australian export facilities without detection in Australia. 

« For there to be widespread incursions across the whole of northern Australia, at this time of the year, is highly unlikely, » he said.

A main in a blue shirt and cap smiles in front of a car

Kununurra-based veterinarian Peter Letchford is confident Australia remains free of LSD.(ABC Rural: Alys Marshall)

The disease is transmitted by insects, with a key concern being the proximity between Indonesia and Australia. 

« This time of the year, when we’ve had three to four months of prevailing winds, that makes it unlikely for there to be an insect borne incursion into the country, » he said.

His top priority is to conduct additional testing to reassure the Indonesian government that Australia remains LSD-free. 

« We have been doing testing, but we just have to be a little bit more targeted in that testing now in the coming week to reassure our trading partners, » Mr Letchford said.

Symptomatic of a bigger issue

Ross Taylor is the head of the Indonesian Institute and believes this ban on Australian cattle imports is indicative of broader political reasoning.

« We have tended to treat the whole Indonesian live cattle export industry as a, ‘We sell; you buy’ relationship, rather than advancing the relationship to a true partnership, » he said.

« I think that that tends to come out and play into these scenarios. It’s very complex, but it’s certainly more than just simply a reaction to lumpy skin disease. »

Brahman cattle in yard at Carlton Hill Station with ranges in background.

CPC’s export yards at Carlton Hill station are one of four Australian facilities affected.(ABC Rural: Courtney Fowler)

Mr Taylor flagged recent consecutive years of record-high Australian cattle prices as a factor to consider.

« When prices skyrocket, as they have done, this puts enormous pressure on those lower and middle class people [in Indonesia], so very quickly that becomes a domestic and political issue, » he said.

He said this combined with Indonesian uncertainty around the future of Australian live export to create a tense trading relationship.

« The general public in Australia need to understand just how fearful Indonesia is about the move by the federal government to ban sheep live exports, » Mr Taylor said.

« That really plays very heavily into the narrative. »


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