Ryegrass toxicity

19 Nov, 2003 10:00 PM
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By PAUL HOOPER

RYEGRASS toxicity has dampened celebrations for WA hay producers, who are looking forward to record yields.

There are already more than 40,000 tonnes of export hay in storage and producers estimate a 25pc increase in yield on last year.

But Gilmac plant manager Mike King, York, said annual ryegrass toxicity was a problem and growers needed to be vigilant.

Mr King said Gilmac staff worked constantly with growers to ensure they received top quality hay for export.

He said crop inspections were conducted throughout the season, prior to cutting, not only to assess for ARGT, but for contaminants such as broadleaf weeds, animal matter and rust.

³Most of our growers are made aware during the course of the season as to what to be looking for,² he said.

³Certainly the York area has had a lot more ryegrass this year than we¹ve ever seen.²

Director of Gilmac Peter Mackie said the export hay market had grown steadily in the past 16 years.

Mr Mackie said the market in Japan had blossomed and there was a strong demand for premium quality hay.

He said the most important part of the market was quality control and seasonal variations had to be taken in to account.

³The need for us is to control our quality and ship the appropriate style and type of hay that they request,² he said.

Mr Mackie said it was imperative for the hay industry to be in control of ARGT.

³If we were so unfortunate as to send some hay to Japan that killed some cattle we would have to fight very hard to keep the market,² he said.

³There would be a huge reaction in Japan against it.

³The Japanese are almost paranoid about their food safety, and that hay is part of the food chain.²

He said Gilmac had stringent procedures to ensure ARGT hay did not reach Japan.

³The concern is, that if other people exporting hay don¹t do the job properly and control the hay that they export, then that could have great consequences for everybody in the industry,² he said.

³We do our very best to test absolutely perfectly.²

After concerns in Japan 18 months ago, Mr Mackie approached the Agriculture Department to implement a regulation to control ARGT in export hay.

As a result, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service introduced a protocol based largely on Gilmac¹s procedures that had been in use since the mid 1990s.

³Oaten hay is going to become a prescribed export when legislation passes through Federal Parliament,² Mr Mackie said.

³When that happens, all has been done by AQIS to ensure everyone is in line with the protocol.

³AQIS have already begun to do spot audits on exporters.²

Mr Mackie said he was happy with the protocol over the last 18 months to control ARGT in export hay.

He said the need was to continue the implementations to ensure the security of WA¹s export hay market.

p Next week: The spread of ARGT and measures to stop it.

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