Investigations into mortalities

​​​​​​​​​​​​The Australian standards for the export of livestock (ASEL) defines a reportable mortality level by species on a voyage or air journey as, the percentages listed below or 3 animals, whichever is the greater number of animals

  • Sheep and goats: 2%
  • Cattle and buffalo on a voyage less than 10 days: 0.5%
  • Cattle and buffalo on a voyage more than 10 days: 1%
  • Camelids: 2%
  • Deer: 2%

The on-board stockman or Australian Government Accredited Veterinarian, if one accompanies the voyage, must immediately report a reportable mortality level to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The department undertakes an investigation into livestock reportable mortality incidents to try to determine the cause of the mortalities and suggest future corrective action.

Summaries of the department's mortality investigations

In order to improve the transparency of the live export trade, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources with the agreement of the Live Export Industry Consultative Committee, have undertaken to report on investigations conducted of consignments with reportable mortality events.

A voyage may include multiple consignments. Actions taken by a delegate of the Secretary for voyages exported by sea that record mortalities above the reportable level are reported on in a six-monthly report to Parliament.

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Consignment 68. Cattle exported by sea to Brunei Darussalam and Sarawak April 2017

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L333

April 2017

Cattle

95

0.50%

7.69%

View the consignment 68 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Brunei Darussalam and Sarawak April 2017.

Investigation Conclusions

The department concluded that the cause of this mortality event was ineffective non-slip flooring in a new livestock export ship.

Actions

SEALS arranged for two representatives to be at the first port to assist with discharge. One travelled to the feedlot to ensure livestock settled in appropriately and to follow up on further management. The other representative continued on to the second port to assist with the final discharge. Once discharge was complete, the ship sailed directly to a shipyard to undergo remediation of the floors.

SEALS advised that if the vessel is used for another voyage, they will use the same on board AAV for consistency. The AAV indicated that the amount of bedding in each pen would be doubled from the outset, and hospital areas would have a thick pad, probably consisting of full sawdust bags placed in a patchwork pattern.

The department will consider applying the following additional conditions to the next livestock export consignment using the same vessel:

  1. An AAV must accompany the livestock.
  2. The class of livestock must be limited to heifers, steers and young bulls less than 400 kg bodyweight.
  3. The voyage must be less than 10 days’ duration.
  4. Bedding must be loaded onto the vessel, at a minimum quantity of 25 m3 for every 1000 m2. (Bedding is not required under ASEL on voyages shorter than 10 days).

Additionally, the department has undertaken the following actions:

  1. Shared details of this reportable mortality with industry, and suggested that information could be made available to livestock exporters regarding effective non-slip flooring for live export ships.
  2. As part of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) review, additional conditions have been proposed for maiden voyages of new livestock export ships.

Consignment 67. Buffalo exported by sea to Malaysia November 2016

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L247

November 2016

Buffalo

7

1.00%

1.88%

View the consignment 67 report in detail – Buffalo exported by sea to Malaysia November 2016.

Investigation Conclusions

A mortality rate of 1.88 per cent was recorded for this consignment of buffalo exported to Malaysia. The department’s review of all information including that provided by the exporter indicates that the buffalo were prepared and managed in accordance with ASEL standards. A definitive cause of mortalities was not determined.

The department accepted the actions implemented by the exporter and did not take any further action against the exporter.

Actions

The exporter suggested age, body condition and limited domestication were possible contributing factors. The exporter has amended their Standard Operating Procedures for exporting buffalo by sea to include the following.

All buffalo must be;

  • under 4 years of age with a maximum individual weight of 450 kg;
  • well covered with a minimum body score of 3 out of 5;
  • domesticated, including a minimum of 10 days in yards and on hay;
  • provided with extra space and additional bedding on board above that required by ASEL;
  • shipped in appropriate pens with no solid walls and multiple entry and exit points.

Consignment 65. Sheep exported by sea to Qatar, Kuwait, UAE and Oman July 2016

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L006

May 2016

Sheep

1741

2.00%

2.51%

View the consignment 65 report in detail – Sheep exported by sea to Qatar, Kuwait, UAE and Oman July 2016.

Investigation Conclusions

A mortality rate of 2.51 per cent was recorded for this consignment of sheep exported to the Middle East. The cause of this reportable mortality was heat stress. A peak in cases occurred over three days, which corresponded with the most extreme conditions and a delayed discharge in Qatar. The department required Emanuel to comply with a heat event management plan for their next consignment to the Middle East using the same vessel and the corresponding mortality rate was below the reportable level.

Actions

Emanuel undertook a review of their practices and procedures and identified strategies to minimise the risk of a future heat stress event. At the department’s request, they developed and implemented a comprehensive heat event management plan. This included reducing stocking density (on the next voyage), loading industrial fans to assist with ventilation, changing the port rotation and investigating what other weather forecasting information can be accessed.

Consignment 64. Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam May 2016

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L247

May 2016

Cattle

15

0.50%

0.61%

View the consignment 64 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam in May 2016.

Investigation Conclusions

A definitive cause of the mortalities in this consignment could not be identified. The cool and wet conditions and a prolonged stay of cattle in Premises A (up to 40 days) before export may have contributed to the lameness, downers and subsequent mortalities during the voyage.

Actions

NACC staff in Vietnam followed the livestock through to the Importer’s feedlots to monitor their health and welfare and progress over four days after their arrival. The cattle were given additional space and bedding in the feedlots to help them recover from the voyage.

Following the incident, NACC implemented the following strategies:

  • No cattle with more than 50 per cent Bos taurus genetics will be exported out of southern ports (South of 26th Parallel) to Vietnam between May and August.
  • Continue to load additional sawdust and chaff for any voyage longer than seven days.
  • Liaise with the operator of registered premises to consider yard condition, actual and predicted rainfall before finalising the booking of yard for an export consignment.

Consignment 61. Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam March 2016

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L247

March 2016

Cattle

25

1.00%

1.42%

View the consignment 61 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam in March 2016.

Investigation Conclusions

The main cause of mortalities on this voyage was that 14 cattle were unable to stand or walk (downer animals) and were euthanased. Five cattle died from pneumonia.

Wet conditions in the registered premises where cattle were held before export caused softened hooves resulting in infection and lameness.  In addition, the vessel experienced rough conditions on the last few days of the voyage.

Actions

The department’s veterinary officer closed the registered premises due to the wet conditions until the yards dried out. 

The exporter (NACC) followed the livestock through to the importer’s feedlots and monitored their health and welfare over the days following arrival to ensure the full recovery of the livestock.

The exporter reviewed their policies for monitoring weather patterns to better prepare for adverse weather conditions. They also load additional sawdust and chaff (above ASEL requirements) for heavy cattle.

Consignment 60. Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam in March 2016

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L717

March 2015

Cattle

13

0.5%

0.99%

View the consignment 60 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam in March 2016.

Investigation Conclusions

Respiratory disease was the main factor contributing to the mortalities.

Actions

The department did not take any regulatory action against the exporter.

Consignment 59. Sheep and goats exported by air to Malaysia in August 2015

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L581

August 2015

Sheep
Goats

125 (18.66%)
48 (4.80%)

2.00%
2.00%

18.66%
4.80%

View the consignment 59 report in detail – Sheep and goats exported by air to Malaysia in August 2015.

Investigation Conclusions

The investigation found inadequate ventilation (failure of the main system) during a transit stop causing increased temperatures, humidity, carbon dioxide and ammonia levels were the main factors contributing to the mortalities.

Actions

The exporter will engage the services of a groom to accompany all full freighter consignments that require transit stops. In addition, instructions to the captain will stipulate that the ventilation system must be started on taxi after landing. The exporter has also advised that they will not ship livestock on routes that require transit stops that do not provide back-up ground ventilation systems.

The department requires all exporters have an air risk management plan that addresses risks associated with ventilation failure during transit stops.

Consignment 58. Cattle exported by sea to Thailand in February 2015

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L233

February 2015

Cattle

33

1.00%

3.57%

View the consignment 58 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Thailand in February 2015.

Investigation Conclusions

The department could not determine a definitive cause of the mortalities. An extended period in the registered premises combined with the wet conditions contributed to the increased levels of lameness resulting in a number of animals rejected. Post mortems completed by the stockperson on board showed no obvious abnormalities and no additional laboratory testing was completed.

Actions

In response to this incident, the exporter prepared a high risk cattle management plan. The management plan includes, a more stringent selection process, when possible, delaying deliveries of cattle to the registered premises, so they are not held for an extended period and continuing with bovine respiratory disease vaccination.

Consignment 57. Buffalo exported by sea to Vietnam October 2014

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L333

October 2014

Buffalo

7
(1.95%)

1.0%

0.54%

View the consignment 57 report in detail – Buffalo exported by sea to Vietnam in October 2014.

Investigation Conclusions

After investigation no definitive cause for the mortalities could be determined. The cause was likely multifactorial, including an overload of buffalo and stress during mustering and trucking.

Actions

The exporter (SEALS) advised buffalo suppliers not to muster buffalo under hot conditions and to monitor buffalo during transition following mustering.

The exporter considered that the overload occurred due to human error. They have invested in staff training and systems, and reviewed their Approved Arrangement, to prevent any future loading errors.

Consignment 56. Cattle exported by sea to Japan in January 2015

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L599

January 2015

Cattle

5
(1.19%)

1.0%

1.19%

View the consignment 56 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Japan in January 2015.

Investigation Conclusions

The investigation found respiratory disease and injuries sustained as a result of very rough weather during the voyage were the main factors contributing to the mortalities.

Actions

The department applied the following conditions to the exporter’s next consignment to Japan:

  1. An AAV accompanied the consignment to report on the health and welfare of the livestock.
  2. Cattle were vaccinated according to the manufacturer’s recommendation with a vaccine against Mannheimia haemolytica and Bovine Herpes Virus Type 1 (to protect against Bovine Respiratory Disease and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis Virus).

Since then the department has also applied conditions to include bedding (sawdust) on consignments of cattle exported from Brisbane to Japan and have continued to require vaccination against Mannheimia haemolytica and Bovine Herpes Virus Type 1 (to protect against Bovine Respiratory Disease and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis Virus).

Consignment 55. Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam in October 2014

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L333

October 2014

Cattle

11

1.00%

1.12%

View the consignment 55 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam in October 2014.

Investigation Conclusions

The department concluded the mortalities were caused by injuries and pneumonia.

Actions

The department required an Australian Government Accredited Veterinarian to accompany the exporter’s next consignment to Vietnam on this vessel.

The exporter advised on subsequent voyages cattle were vaccinated against pneumonia and provided a lower pen density and additional bedding. The exporter now vaccinates cattle at risk of pneumonia, and no longer sources the breed of cattle associated with this mortality event.

Consignment 54. Cattle exported by sea to the Philippiines in October 2014

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L028

October 2014

Cattle

53
(2.09%)

0.50%

2.09%

View the consignment 54 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Philippines in October 2014.

Investigation Conclusions

The investigation found that the main cause of mortality was bovine respiratory disease.

Actions

The department required an AAV to accompany the next consignment by this exporter using the same vessel.

The result of the voyage was a mortality rate of 0.21% (5 out of 2371 cattle loaded).

Consignment 53. Sheep exported by air to Singapore in October 2014

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L233

October 2014

Sheep

174
(7.90%)

2.0%

7.90%

View the consignment 53 report in detail – Sheep exported by air to Singapore in October 2014.

Investigation Conclusions

The investigation found that the airline’s explanation of inadequate ventilation due to an underperforming air conditioning pack is the most likely cause of the mortalities.

Actions

The airline undertook several action in response to this incident including:

  • Changing several components of the air conditioning pack.
  • Adding additional checks to the climate control system before clearance of the aircraft for livestock transport.
  • Providing extra briefing to the crew about monitoring the environmental control system when transporting livestock.

As of 16 April 2015 and after resuming carriage of livestock no further mortalities or other issues have been reported on this aircraft.

Consignment 52. Cattle exported by sea to China February 2014

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L518

February 2014

Cattle

49
(2.04%)

1%

2.04%

View the consignment 52 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to China in February 2014.

Investigation Conclusions

The investigation found that the main cause of mortality was euthanasia due to injuries sustained as a result of bad weather during the voyage.

Actions

The department required an AAV to accompany the next consignment by this exporter. There were no mortalities reported on this voyage.

Consignment 51. Cattle and sheep exported to Israel and Jordan in January 2014


Licence
Number
Export
Date
SpeciesConsignment
mortality
level
Reportable
mortality
level
Total voyage
mortality
level
L500January 2014

Cattle

165
(2.75%)

1.0%2.75%
Sheep

1654
(3.89%)

2%3.89%

View the consignment 51 report in detail – Cattle and sheep exported to Israel and Jordan in January 2014.

Investigation Conclusions

During the voyage, the ship experienced mechanical failure, which slowed its progress and significantly extended the length of the voyage. Subsequent to this additional fodder was required en route.

The investigation determined the cause of the majority of mortalities was ruminal acidosis as the result of a sudden change in fodder.

Actions

The department required the exporter to load an additional seven days of fodder (four days in addition to ASEL requirements) on the next voyage of this vessel longer than 10 days.

The exporter has undertaken the following action in response to this incident:

  • Adding reference to this incident to the their operations and governance manual
  • Developing procedures to match the composition of fodder on board with any fodder loaded onto the vessel en route.

Consignment 50. Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam in January 2014


Licence
Number
Export
Date
SpeciesConsignment
mortality
level
Reportable
mortality
level
Total voyage
mortality
level
L333January 2014Cattle

49
(3.52%)

1%3.52%

View the consignment 50 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Vietnam in January 2014.

Investigation Conclusions

The investigation found that the main cause of mortality was euthanasia due to injuries sustained as a result of bad weather during the voyage.

Actions

The department approved a subsequent consignment in which the exporter voluntarily implemented the following additional conditions:

  • an additional 10 ton of sawdust loaded
  • additional antibiotics, eye ointments and anti-inflammatory drugs loaded

The result of the voyage was a mortality rate of 0.14% (2 out of 1388 cattle loaded).

Consignment 49. Sheep exported by air to Malaysia in November 2013


Licence
Number
Export
Date
SpeciesConsignment
mortality
level
Reportable
mortality
level
Total voyage
mortality
level
L520November 2013Sheep

44
(39.3%)

2%39.3%

View the consignment 49 report in detail – Sheep exported by air to Malaysia in November 2013.

Investigation Conclusions

The investigation found that the airline’s explanation of inadequate ventilation in the forward cargo hold due to an intermittent defect is the most likely cause of the mortalities.

Actions

The department approved subsequent consignments subject to the following additional conditions:

  • written confirmation from the aircraft operator that the cargo hold has a suitable Environmental Control System for the shipment being tendered for carriage and
  • that animals are exported using two double tiered crates and two single tiered crates only.
As of 24 December 2013 seven consignments have been exported with no mortalities reported.

Consignment 48. Cattle exported by air to Kazakhstan in October 2013


Licence
Number
Export
Date
SpeciesConsignment
mortality
level
Reportable
mortality
level
Total voyage
mortality
level
L363October 2013Cattle

49
(15.3%)

0.5%15.3%

View the consignment 48 report in detail – Cattle exported by air to Kazakhstan in October 2013.

Investigation Conclusions

The investigation found that inadequate ventilation within the double crates is the most likely cause of the mortalities.

Actions

Immediately following this incident the department required the following:

  • Full freighter consignments of cattle (i.e. entire cargo) to be exported using single tiered crates only.

The exporter resumed exports of cattle to Kazakhstan by air and as of 30 November 2013, they had completed four consignments of 1165 cattle with no mortalities reported.

From 30 November 2013 the department has required the preparation of an Air Risk Management Plan for exporters using double tier crates to export cattle. Between 30 November 2013 and 31 January 2014 480 cattle have been exported by air to various destinations with no mortalities.

Consignment 47. Cattle exported by air to China in September 2013


Licence
Number
Export
Date
SpeciesConsignment
mortality
level
Reportable
mortality
level
Total voyage
mortality
level
L604September 2013Cattle

18
(6.45%)

0.5%6.45%

View the consignment 47 report in detail – Cattle exported by air to China in September 2013.

Investigation Conclusions

The investigation found that a definitive cause of the mortalities could not be determined, but from the information available, inadequate ventilation in the region of two crates caused increased temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and ammonia levels is suspected as the most likely cause of the mortalities.

Actions

Following this incident the exporter has not exported any animals.

Consignment 46. Adelaide and Fremantle to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates


Licence
Number
Export
Date
SpeciesConsignment
mortality
level
Reportable
mortality
level
Total voyage
mortality
level
L363August 2013Sheep

3,256
(7.28%)

923
(3.00%)

2%5.53%

*Two consignments on one vessel

View the consignment 46 report – Adelaide and Fremantle to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Investigation Conclusions

The main cause of mortalities was heat stress, accounting for 97% of mortalities. Mortalities spiked on day 21 when the vessel encountered extreme weather conditions.

Actions

The department approved the subsequent consignment which departed Australia in November 2013 subject to a condition that the sheep be provided with 10% additional space over minimum requirements. The result for the consignment was 182 mortalities out of 77,095 sheep loaded, a mortality rate of 0.24%. The Australian Government Accredited Veterinarian reported that there was no evidence of heat stress during the voyage.

Consignment 45. Cattle exported by sea to Japan in May 2013


Licence
Number
Export
Date
SpeciesConsignment
mortality
level
Reportable
mortality
level
Total voyage
mortality
level
L007May 2013Cattle

18
(1.43%)

1%1.18%

View the consignment 45 report in detail – Cattle exported by sea to Japan in May 2013.

Investigation Conclusions

No definitive cause for the mortalities could be determined. A combination of bovine respiratory disease (BRD), cool weather before export resulting in poor acclimatisation to the high temperature and humidity during the voyage and rough shipping conditions may have contributed to the mortalities.

Actions

The department applied conditions to the exporter’s next consignment to Japan, including that an Australian Accredited Veterinarian accompany the consignment to report on the health and welfare of the livestock, and that the cattle be provided with an additional 10% space above that required by the ASEL. Cattle were also required to be vaccinated according to the manufacturer’s recommendation with a vaccine against Mannheimia haemolytica (to protect against BRD).

This consignment departed Brisbane on 3 July 2013. Four mortalities occurred during the voyage (mortality rate 0.36%).

Consignment 44. Brisbane to Japan


Licence
Number
Export
Date
SpeciesConsignment
mortality
level
Reportable
mortality
level
Total voyage
mortality
level
L599January 2013Cattle7
(1.79%)
1%0.99%

View the consignment 44. Brisbane to Japan report in detail..

Investigation Conclusions

None of the cattle that died were identified as being sick or injured prior to death. High temperature and humidity from the start of the voyage resulting in heat stress may have contributed to some of the mortalities.

Actions

The department applied conditions to the exporter’s next consignment to Japan. This consignment departed Brisbane on 10 February 2013. No mortalities occurred during the voyage. Subsequent to the mortality incident, the owners of the ship also improved the vessel’s ventilation system to address areas of poor air flow.

Consignment 43. Brisbane to Japan


Licence
Number
Export
Date
SpeciesConsignment
mortality
level
Reportable
mortality
level
Total voyage
mortality
level
L599March 2012Cattle7
(1.17%)
1%0.89%

View the consignment 43. Brisbane to Japan report in detail.

Investigation Conclusions

No definitive cause for the mortalities. High temperature and humidity developed from the start of the voyage causing heat stress, which may have contributed to some of the mortalities.

Actions

The department applied conditions to the exporter’s next consignment to Japan. This consignment departed Brisbane on 18 May 2012.

No mortalities occurred during the voyage.

Licence
Number

Export
Date

Species

Consignment
mortality
level

Reportable
mortality
level

Total voyage
mortality
level

L006

August
2010

Sheep

1407
(2.04%)

2%

2.04%

L233

February
2008

Cattle

15
(0.85%)

0.5%

0.84%

L500

May
2007

Sheep

622
(4.16%)

2%

1.88%

L203

January
2006

Goats

51
(3.04%)

2%

3.04%

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