There has been a lot of work put in to solving the effluent problem by developing roadside effluent disposal facilities where they are needed. There is also a code of practice being developed for the disposal of effluent from livestock trucks.
“With my husband, I do a lot of loading and unloading of stock,” said Fiona Wild, Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association Treasurer and long time member of the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland at the ALRTA Conference. “One of my chief jobs is washing out to crates. I feel like I know a lot about s**t.”
This is how Fiona opened her presentation about the treatment of effluent in livestock trailers and the issues it creates. One of the major causes of the issue comes from the owners of the animals being loaded, not sticking to the curfew rules on feed and water in the lead up to the animals being loaded onto a truck.
“Queensland is the largest beef producer in Australia,” said Fiona.” We have more than 40 per cent of the national herd in Queensland and we produce 54 per cent of the nation’s total beef production in terms of value. Brisbane is Australia’s largest fresh meat export terminal.
“This means there is a lot of poo. There is definitely a need for roadside effluent dumps as urban development is encroaching more and more into rural areas. There have also been greater development of a large feedlots in southeast Queensland. We have seven export abattoirs and three domestic abattoirs located in this relatively small area.
“We, as an industry, have endeavoured to put in effluent dump thanks, but, unfortunately, they do not cater for the amount of effluent which is produced. We can probably get about 250 to 300 litres in our tanks and if we don’t have effluent dump sites situated in the right places on our routes, we have a big issue.
The ALRTA sent a delegation to New Zealand, where there are a number of roadside effluent dump sites, to see how the system works there.
Most of the livestock being transport in southeast Queensland travels along the Warrego Highway at some point. As a result, this is the red route where the problem of effluence has become most obvious.
“The ALRTA have applied for and received funding from the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative program to construct a roadside effluent disposal facility,” said Sue Davies, ALRTA Project Officer. “Together with Transport and Main Roads Queensland, we are considering sites on the Warrego Highway to the east of Toowoomba. Our initial proposal was to build a facility on a breakdown pad near Toowoomba, but local support for this has fallen away.”
The team has now gone back to the job of identifying potential sites and then working with local authorities and other stakeholders in order to get the first effluent facility up and running. There is also a possible site which has been identified in Victoria.
“With limited grant funding and some potential earnings from effluent products, we’re looking at getting the best project outcomes from the most strategic locations,” said Fiona. “We are also spreading the message that effluent from transporting livestock is a shared responsibility and one which is highly visible to transport operators, but needs a supply chain solution.
“In regards to the management of effluent we are developing a code of practice. We’re also looking at the implications for operators and the costs of implementing any changes. We also need to look at the effluent disposal facilities as part of the solution.
“We need to have partners from the farming community, through to saleyards, abattoirs and, of course, ourselves as transporters. Unfortunately, as transporters we seem to be the easiest target to pick on in regards to managing effluent. It is important that all other parties buy into this concept and not leave us sitting pretty with whatever it is coming out the back of our trailers.”
If a registered industry code of practice is to be set up to help in solving the effluent problem, it will need to include guidelines for the industry under the chain of responsibility provisions on how to manage effluent. Effluent loss is classified as a load restraint breach. All of the parties involved in the supply chain moving the animals need to be involved and informed on the requirements of any practice which is put in place.
The code will use a risk-based management process identifying them and proposing control measures. This will help businesses workout what actions would be a reasonably practical in their circumstances.
“At the moment, we have a couple of places in the southeast corner and they are sites which are know as ‘S**t Hill’ and that is exactly what they are,” said Fiona. “Unfortunately, the volume which is being collected in the back of those trailers is beyond the capacity of the dump tanks. When the effluent is dumped by the side of the road it is an inconvenience to the other road users with its smell and also a danger to the environment. It then creates a problem for those particular local councils when it is happening.
“We do not want to advertise ourselves as people who are doing the wrong thing, but, unfortunately, we have been put in that position. By having a code of practice we are then looking at how we are increasing the awareness of what we are trying to do and following best practice in animal welfare.
“Biosecurity is another issue at these points. We’re creating problems around the biosecurity of the effluent being dumped and also about where those cattle have come from. If they have been taken out of places where there is fireweed or giant rat’s tail, we’re creating an issue along the side of the road.”
Effluent dump sites will reduce the problem significantly and action on a code practice is now happening. The ALRTA invited a wide range of stakeholders for consultation and, as a result, 35 entities turned up with representation to get involved with the issue. The meeting also served as an educational process with the purpose to inform others within the supply chain about the problems with which the livestock transported are having to cope.
A working group was formed and is now meeting to develop a draft code practice for the industry. When the draft is completed it will be sent out to all of the stakeholders for comment and alteration. The next step in the process will be to present the finished code to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator for them to assess it as a code of practice which it can register. It is hoped that this process will be complete by the end of 2019.