In a bid to alleviate effluent disposal challenges for the livestock carrier industry, a joint federal-state government arrangement has committed to a $10million investment into building and up-grading truck wash-out facilities across NSW.
After six years of lobbying by the Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association (LBRCA) for government support, the existing Tenterfield Livestock Selling Centre truck wash-out is the first to receive funding under the NSW Fixing Country Truck Washes initiative.
The Tenterfield facility gained $600,000 to help alleviate the on-going compliance, biosecurity and on-road safety issues the industry faces because of incorrect effluent disposal.
The program is set to build an efficient freight transport network across regional NSW by focusing on hot-spots where truck washing facilities and effluent disposal do not meet the needs of truck operators, especially livestock carriers.
Although the announcement is no doubt a positive move forward for livestock transport infrastructure, LBRCA president Lynley Miners painted a grim picture of the current standards livestock carriers are attempting to meet without sufficient facilities on key livestock freight routes.
He said the industry is almost in a “no-win situation”.
“The problem we have now is once it’s full where do we put it? If you are in Western NSW and your tank is full, it can be hundreds of kilometres between stops with effluent tanks that only have a 200 litre capacity,” Mr Miners said.
“Let’s talk biosecurity problems; if there is no wash-out, serious diseases like foot rot can transfer between mobs and between properties – if a driver is transporting stock for a restocker, they want to be assured they have had a clean truck and not get the bill for another farmer’s disease,” he said.
With more upgrades to wash-out sites to be announced, a trip to New Zealand this month was prompted and found Mr Lynley investigating the way both Government and producers maintain effluent control.
He found in some respects New Zealand were ahead in efficient effluent management but because of the size of the network, it would be difficult to mirror their solutions in Australia.
“A lot of transport companies have their own wash-out set-up as well as more road-side facilities,” Mr Lynley said.
“We visited a dairy producing area and they seem to have on-farm measures in place to catch their own effluent and separate it from solids back to water, and then re-irrigate the water onto their pastures,” he said.
Mr Lynley believes that without a change to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) to differentiate between the safety concerns of effluent leakage and other freight items he is not 100 per cent confident the problem can be contained.
A waste of possible gains
According to LBRCA president Lynley Miners, cattle lose 90 per cent of their effluent within the first four hours on the truck and therefore if a chain of responsibility including stock preparation was put in place, livestock carriers could avoid fines of up to $700.
“What we know is that 90 per cent equates to 5 per cent loss of their weight - if you have a 600kg cow and she loses five per cent shes lost 30 litres of effluent – but if you have 40 animals on that truck that’s 1200 litres,” Mr Miners said.
“If you didn’t have 1000 kilograms of water walking onto the truck in the belly of cattle – a producer could fit at least another cow and a half; an extra 1000kgs of beef on your truck at $3 per kilogram is $3000 worth of extra income,” he said.
On Mr Miner’s recent trip to New Zealand investigating their effluent management systems he was told abattoirs have a code to have stock off food and water for four hours prior to collection.
“There is a guide for stock preparation and the maximum time off feed and water but nothing about the minimum time – it goes to the extreme but not the start point,” he said.
Mr Miner’s believes the funding has created a big safety gain for all road users and the improved wash-out facilities is a bonus.