The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry regulates the importation of reproductive materials into Australia. The department’s role is to protect Australia’s animal populations from diseases and pests that could inadvertently be introduced.
To import reproductive materials from livestock and horses, you will need to know about:
- import conditions
- applying for an import permit
- contacting the exporting country
- notifying the department of your import
The importation of semen and embryos to Australia can only be allowed if there is a policy to allow importation from that species and breed, and a set of import conditions that mitigate the biosecurity risk posed by that commodity. Currently, there are import conditions available for bovine (cattle), caprine (goat), ovine (sheep) and cervine (deer) semen and embryos, and equine (horse) semen. These can only be imported into Australia from department approved countries.
An Australian import permit is required for each commodity from each country of export, and the semen or embryos must meet all the department's import conditions prior to export. These vary according to the exporting country’s animal health status. Import conditions for livestock semen and embryos and equine semen can be found on BICON, the department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions database.
Commodities that cannot be found on BICON are not currently permitted for importation, as they do not have an import policy in place. The development of new import policies is a very lengthy process, and the department receives many enquiries about importing commodities that are not currently permitted.
A biosecurity risk analysis must be performed before the department can finalise an import policy for any live animal commodity, including reproductive materials. Many factors are examined when deciding which commodities will have a risk analysis performed, including the level of risk the commodity may pose, and the level of interest for importing the commodity. Once it has been decided that a risk analysis will be performed for a commodity, the department sets it in a priority list for future risk assessment. Please be aware that even if a commodity is put on the list for future assessment, priorities can change over time and there may be setbacks to the commencement of a risk analysis.
Bovine semen and embryos
Bovine semen for importation to Australia must be derived from Bos taurus or Bos indicus breeds of cattle, water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) or American bison (Bison bison).
Bovine embryos for importation to Australia must be derived from Bos taurus or Bos indicus breeds of cattle. In vitro produced cattle embryos are currently only permitted from USA, Canada and New Zealand.
Fresh semen and frozen semen have different certification requirements. Please read the import conditions carefully.
Equine embryos are not currently permitted for importation as the department has not performed a biosecurity risk analysis and there is no policy to allow importation of this commodity.
Ovine and caprine semen and embryos
Importing sheep or goat semen or embryos is a long and difficult process due to Australia’s risk mitigation methods to protect against scrapie disease. Each male and female donor must be at least 5 years of age and must be euthanised and autopsied prior to the semen or embryos being exported to Australia. Tissues are required to be tested with negative results for scrapie prion protein.
There are also strict requirements relating to the disease status of the herd the donor comes from for the 5 years prior to the reproductive material being collected. The certifying competent authority will be able to assist you in determining the documents you must present to them so that they will certify that the semen or embryos meet Australia’s import conditions.
Sheep (both male and female donors) must have a genotype that is susceptible to scrapie and therefore must be of a certain breed and genotype that is known to be susceptible. These are listed on BICON. Breeds and genotypes not listed are not permitted for import under the department’s current policy.
Before you begin the import process, check you will be able to meet the required conditions. These can be found on the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Biosecurity Import Conditions database (BICON). Please see the following link to the BICON homepage: bicon.agriculture.gov.au/BiconWeb4.0.
In the ‘Quick Search’ bar, type the commodity name (e.g. ‘bovine semen’) and click ‘Search’. Click on the link for the commodity of interest, which will lead to a series of questions relating to species and the country of origin. Select the relevant answers and country then click ‘next’. This will take you to the import conditions for the country of origin. Alternatively, if you wish to see a list of permitted countries for that commodity, select ‘skip to import conditions’ instead of selecting a country of origin.
Please note: The import conditions page lists general information and requirements, such as the need for an import permit. Specific import conditions and veterinary certification requirements are found by clicking the link in the ‘warnings and information notices’ box.
To apply for an import permit, click the ‘Apply now’ link at the bottom of the BICON webpage.
An import permit for one commodity from one approved country (e.g. bovine embryos from USA) typically costs $480, however, additional fees may apply in some circumstances. The department's Charging guidelines can help to determine fees and charges that will apply.
After you have obtained the relevant import conditions from BICON, the department suggests you contact the government Agricultural Department or Ministry in the country of export to determine whether there are any other requirements they would need you to meet. They may also be able to assist you in finding a suitable collection centre (facility) that is approved as an export establishment, if you do not already have this information.
The Australian government does not keep a list of approved collection centres for any of the approved countries.
The department’s Biosecurity Regulations currently require that:
- For each consignment of FRESH (chilled/unfrozen) reproductive material, the person in charge of the goods must notify the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in writing at least three (3) days prior to import.
- The notification must include the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry permit number, flight number, date of arrival and estimated time of arrival for the consignment. It must also nominate a person who will be available at the time the consignment is inspected by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
- If notification is not given at the appropriate time, the department cannot guarantee that officers will be available to inspect the shipment.
- Notification should be sent to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry office at the first point of entry (port of landing)* for the reproductive material. Consignments that do not meet the import conditions of the department will either remain under biosecurity control, be exported or disposed of without recompense.
* Reproductive materials should normally be inspected at the first port of landing in Australia. In the event the consignment must land at one Australian airport and then remain under bond to move to another office for inspection (e.g. the airline operator may consign the tank to Melbourne but land in Sydney and then move the tank/s to Melbourne for inspection under bond), both office locations should be notified. Please note that these consignments may only be moved while remaining under bond to the airline. The department will not allow importers to move the tanks between locations themselves while they are still subject to biosecurity control.
Contact details for these offices are:
Sydney, New South Wales
Email: seanimal@ agriculture.gov.au
Email: qldliveanimalimports@ agriculture.gov.au
Perth, Western Australia
Email: waliveanimalimports@ agriculture.gov.au
- It is also recommended that the importer/person in charge provides notification for frozen reproductive materials at least three (3) days prior to import, to help facilitate the clearance and release process.
- Importers can use the Notice of Intention to Import form and/or an email to relevant regional office to provide this notification for both fresh and frozen equine and livestock reproductive materials.
- If draft health certificates are provided to the Australian importer in advance of export, the importer may forward these to the department office at the inspecting office with a request for a pre-export compliance check. If drafts are reviewed, the time taken for the pre-export compliance check will be charged in accordance with the department’s Charging guidelines. Reviewing draft certificates reduces the likelihood of delays in releasing the consignment to the importer after it arrives in Australia, by allowing non-compliances to be identified and potentially addressed before the consignment arrives in Australia.
- The importer/person in charge must make an appointment for the inspection of the goods and documentation by the department at the first point of entry.
Note: The first point of entry is a legislative term referring to the port where the reproductive material tank/s will first land in Australia. If the tank/s will remain under bond to the airline for movement and inspection at another location, the appointment should be made at the office where the inspection will take place. Please be aware that any secondary location would still need to have a determination as a first point of entry (i.e. one of the office locations listed above at Notifying the Department).
- For more information on which landing places or ports are determined to be a first point of entry, refer to Sending your goods to Australia.
- On arrival, the consignment will be subject to biosecurity control, where it will remain until a biosecurity officer has completed the physical inspection of the consignment and all required documentation.
- The importer/person in charge or their nominated agent must be present at the inspection as they will be required to physically handle the consignment and refill containers with liquid nitrogen in the event the consignment needs to be held for an extended time under biosecurity control.
- The person attending the inspection should be trained in handling liquid nitrogen and skilled in manipulating straws and canes to minimise the risk of thawing of the reproductive materials during the inspection. The person attending the inspection must also bring their own equipment for handling straws and canes (e.g. esky, forceps, protective eye wear, thermoprotective gloves, other personal protective clothing/equipment).
- A biosecurity officer will check the consignment and verify all details match the import conditions and veterinary health certificate/s.
- If acceptable, the consignment will be released from biosecurity control. If not, the consignment may be subject to treatment, export or destruction, or additional documents may be requested.
Call 1800 900 090