CHANGES in stocking densities on cattle shipments will come into effect "as soon as possible", according to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR).
Under the Australian Standard for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) Sea Transport Final Report for all livestock consignments that depart Australia by sea, stocking densities on cattle exports were meant to be reduced by up to 15 per cent from June 1, but as of June 13 the order had not been signed off by DAWR secretary Daryl Quinlivan.
DAWR's export advisory notices explain that "on April 11, 2019, the department issued an Export Advisory Notice (EAN) 2019-03 entitled Implementation of certain ASEL Review recommendations on May 1, 2019".
After further consultation the department decided to delay the implementation of the recommendations until June 1, 2019 and exporters were told to disregard the notice, though it still intended "to implement the requirements through an administrative order subject to the existing legislative process".
That order was expected to include specific information in relation to the changes for June 1, 2019, including pen space information.
A DAWR spokesperson said "the Department of Agriculture intends to implement the proposed new pen space area requirements as soon as practicable".
"Until then, the current pen space area requirements remain in place," DAWR said.
"The department will notify industry 10 business days prior to the changes taking effect."
Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC) chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said members of the council were "very frustrated by the mixed signals they are receiving given this second delay with the new stocking density rules".
"We were first preparing for the rules to come in to place at the start of May and then were expecting them at the start of June, only to be told the day before that they were once again delayed," Mr Harvey-Sutton said.
"Exporters plan for voyages for weeks and months and this regulatory uncertainty severely limits their ability to commit to shipments on routes that have excellent animal welfare records.
"We have serious concerns about how these new rules were going to be implemented and in many respects welcome the delay and hope the department is reconsidering."
Mr Harvey-Sutton said ALEC would continue to work with DAWR to create improved processes for the remaining recommendations handed down from the ASEL review.
Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association (KPCA) chairman David Stoate said there were practical implementation issues arising from the change in stocking densities.
"In particular, including the ability of live exporters being able to access, by application, the more favourable stocking densities (0.027 rather than the new default 0.030)," Mr Stoate said.
"KPCA has already been working with the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association, AgForce, the Northern Territory Cattlemens' Association, ALEC and the Cattle Council of Australia to engage with the new Interim Inspector General of Live Exports Ross Carter and the First Assistant Secretary of Live Exports and Animal Welfare in DAWR, Melissa McEwen, to flag issues for consideration so any further time to allow these to be worked through is a good thing."
Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said his organisation would ask for the reason for implementing the change, due to its significant impact on cattle prices and producers.
Mr Seabrook said the cattle industry would have to deal with it just as the sheep industry has, but there were differences between the trades and DAWR needed to explain why it was going to go through with it.