Concerned cattle producers from across North Queensland gathered in Charters Towers on Tuesday (October 10) to discuss new Livestock Production Assurance rules and beef industry leadership options.
Around 70 graziers and agriculture representatives gathered at the Charters Towers Golf Club to debate a number of controversial topics including new rules around Bovine Johne's Disease and lack of industry representation.
Various industry bodies were invited to speak at the meeting including Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter; beef industry commentator, David Byard; North Queensland beef producers Tim and Megan Atkinson; Australian Cattle Industry Council (ACIC); central Queensland beef producer Ashley Kirk and local livestock agents.
Other industry bodies who attended included AgForce and Cattle Council of Australia (CCA).
John Gunthorpe was invited to speak on behalf of the Australian Cattle Industry Council (ACIC) and said the meeting was hosted to discuss the lack of representation producers were getting from industry bodies like Cattle Council of Australia (CCA).
“Producers heard first hand about the damage and failings of Cattle Council and the damage done to producers through the activities of Bovine Johne's Disease (BJD),” he said.
“Producers also heard why we think that ACIC should be the organisation to represent cattle producers across Australia in the future.”
Mr Gunthrope moved and carried three motions including:
- Calls on the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources to enact the senate’s recommendation that Cattle Council be replaced by a democratically-elected producers-owned body as our industry peak council by replacing CCA with the ACIC.
- J-BAS be immediately rescinded by Cattle Council and the scheme abandoned as it has no benefit to our industry and leads to additional red taps and costs.
- Calls on Cattle Council to immediately instruct Safemeat to unlink National Vendor Declarations from the Livestock Production Assurance certification in order that livestock can be moved without the obligation to complete the LPA and therefore without the obligation to prepare Biosecurity Plans.
“Producers left the meeting today having a better understanding of how we see the industry improving through ACIC and also more understanding of the damage caused by Cattle Council.
“ACIC is also keen to make sure we drive for the positives and the great opportunities there are in the beef industry in Queensland and trying to make sure that opportunity is realised.”
The final discussion segment of the meeting became heated when producers started firing questions at representatives from CCA and AgForce.
AgForce Cattle president, Bim Struss said that despite being in the firing line, both AgForce and Cattle Council of Australia wanted to attend the meeting to give a balanced view.
“We had heard about this rolling meeting that John Gunthorpe has going on which is virtually looking to destroy Cattle Council, what it stands for and what it has done in the past. So we believed we needed to put a balanced view out there and let producers know what is going on,” Mr Struss said.
“I am really disappointed that the resolution was passed to develop a new industry body under ACIC.
“At Cattle Council and AgForce we are very supportive of the new direct elected model that is being proposed. Cattle Council has been putting that together and it has been difficult for us to say ‘we are very close’ because we needed the funding to do it; however we are very close to providing this model.
“I think everyone in the meeting today is supportive of a new body that represents Australian cattle producers honestly and fairly. But unfortunately today these producers voted that their selected industry body to do that was ACIC.
“However I believe this meeting was rather loaded in the sense it was an ACIC focused meeting; if AgForce had of held a meeting and held the same motion I feel the outcome would have been a lot different.”
Producers expressed their concerns about the formalities occurred with BJD quarantine as they heard from Tim and Megan Atkinson, Lucky Downs, Greenvale, about their damaging quarantine experience.
The Atkinsons were placed into quarantine for three years after purchasing 57 bulls from a business that had three beasts react to the BJD.
“We were classed as a trace forward quarantine. Therefore we never had the disease but were guilty by association by our purchase,” Ms Atkinson said.
“36 of the 57 were slaughter tested and returned a negative result. Then of those, 11 beasts had lost their NLIS tags and therefore could not be accounted for.
“Under quarantine in the biosecurity plan as it was drafted, there was no adjustments for death of cattle, extending our quarantine for a further two years (three years in total).
“We were locked out of the market, we sold to meatworks and feedlot, but because of the stigma surrounding BJD it was unsure what value we would get for our cattle.
“In the J-BAS system’s current state, anyone who was scored a zero, two or four would be left with skinny stock and putting pressures on their pastures and bank accounts.
“For us we think our costs totaled to about a million dollars for the three years.”
Ms Atkinson said the J-BAS, Biosecurity Plan and LPA deadline processes were all rushed and there was inadequate information and answers for producers.
- I move to have the on farm Biosecurity Plan and associated changed with LPA in their present form postponed for 12 months and all compulsory grass fed levy payers to have input into a redrafted plan to make it workable, relevant and stands international scrutiny.
This motion was moved by all attendees in the meeting and the Atkinson family will now send their motion to Cattle Council of Australia, the State Industry Minister, Federal Industry Minister and Animal Health Australia.