Cattle highlight a 'broken' system
THE discovery that a third tick-infested cow was roaming around Guluguba for more than a week before it was found and shot on Saturday has exposed holes in Queensland's broken biosecurity system.
Initially two cows were reported missing to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) on Saturday, September 8.
They were located on Thursday on Gavin Kleidon's property off the Leichhardt Highway but after neighbours saw an unfamiliar cow in the area Mr Kleidon went searching again. He found the heavily tick-infested heifer on Giligulgul Rd and shot it.
"When we got the first two I thought 'Thank Christ we've got them' but now we don't know where this other one's been,” Mr Kleidon said.
When neighbouring landholder Ian Staines rang to report the third beast to DAF's emergency animal disease hotline, he was furious DAF was unable to contact ground staff on the weekend.
When he stressed the incident was a biosecurity threat, he was told he would get a call back Monday.
"This is absolutely ridiculous, this could light up our whole area and the department can't bloody respond outside of business hours,” Mr Staines said.
"This is our livelihood and the government has made it easier for people from ticky country to come through the clean areas and has thrown us under the bus in the process.
"DAF doesn't seem to have had any contingency plans in place if anything goes wrong and this isn't even the worse case scenario; it could have been a truck rollover and there could be 20 head or more wandering around.”
DAF said in a statement that there had only been two cattle reported missing and it did not find out about the third beast until it was alerted on Saturday after it was destroyed.
The selling agent Peter Hayes of Hayes & Co, Nebo said his staff had counted 137 beasts when the truck was loaded, but the truck driver of Strasburg Bros Livestock, Marburg had only counted 136. When the cattle went missing, it was originally reported that there were three missing but that was later changed to two and this was the number reported to DAF and, eventually, to landholders.
Mr Staines wanted to know why DAF did not pick up the discrepancy in numbers when it checked the paperwork.
"It's just unbelievable that this wasn't picked up... someone should have looked at the permits and we should have been told that there was possibly a third cow.”
Mr Staines said he believed the incident would not have happened under the old legislation which was dropped in mid 2016.
The old regulations mandated that cattle travelling from ticky areas through the tick free area needed to be dipped and then inspected before being transported.
Under the current system, a landholder can self-assess cattle for ticks, but if they are travelling to an abattoir in the clean area or saleyards in the tick infested area, they do not need to be dipped.
"They (DAF) are passing the buck instead of accepting that the system which lets this happen in the first place is broken,” Mr Staines said.
"There seems to have been a real conflict between truckies' protocol for moving cattle through the tick free area and obligations in terms of animal welfare.”
Mr Hayes said DAF gave him permission to speak to Mr Kleidon on Friday afternoon to reassure him that he would be reimbursed. But Mr Kleidon isn't counting on anything until the money is in his bank account.
Mr Kleidon expects DAF staff to arrive at his property for the first time today (Thursday) to give him more of an idea about quarantine periods and the cost of undertaking a program to ensure his country and cattle are tick free at the end of autumn.
Biosecurity Queensland said in a statement that it "will be investigating all aspects of this incident, including validation of all information relevant to the matter” and that it "operates to the highest standards of public transparency and does not endorse any behaviour that is contrary to those standards”.
Western Downs Regional Council said in a statement that it is preparing a Tick Risk Management Plan and will close some of the affected stock routes.
Jacinta Cummins is a freelance journalist based at Guluguba and is engaged to Ian Staines.