Live exporter Wellard will not ship any more dairy heifers to Sri Lanka following cattle deaths until changes have been made to the farm selection criteria.
In a statement, the company said there was a successful pilot program in Sri Lanka in 2013 which gave all parties the confidence that the main program could be run successfully
Wellard had previously alerted the general public on March 18 that it was experiencing some challenges in Sri Lanka.
“This was despite the benefits that the program was achieving and the provision of technical support by Wellard, which was supposed to end six months after the heifers were delivered to the Federal Government of Sri Lanka but continues to this day,” the statement said.
“Efforts to resolve the current issue have been ongoing for some time, and are continuing
“Wellard is in negotiations with the Government of Sri Lanka to make changes to the program to prevent a reoccurrence of these issues for any future shipments
“No cattle have been shipped since November 2017 and no more cattle will be shipped until changes to the farm selection criteria have been agreed, which is unlikely to occur this year.
“Sri Lanka is a developing country and the dairy export program has successfully reduced Sri Lanka’s reliance on imported, powdered milk; fostered the growth of the Sri Lankan dairy industry and its support services; and upgraded the Sri Lankan dairy industry’s herd management skills.
“A handful of the 68 farmers selected by the Sri Lankan Government to receive some of the 5000 cattle shipped to date did however failed to follow the prescribed herd management advice processes, which has caused some animal welfare issues on those farms.”
There were 95 mortalities from the first shipment in the first year, a mortality rate of 4.8%.
There have been 331 mortalities from the second shipment, representing an annualised mortality rate of 9%.
Unfortunately, four farms that received cattle in the second shipment account for 61% of the recorded mortalities from that shipment.
“This has been the source of immense frustration, as those farmers are ignoring advice, particularly on nutrition, and animal health is falling to the point of mortality,” said Wellard Executive Chairman John Klepec.
“So while we are continuing to seek immediate changes to the nutrition management on those farms, we must also change the Sri Lankan farmer selection criteria for future shipments so a) the negative animal welfare outcomes that have occurred on these few farms are not repeated and b) other farmers in the program are not tarnished by the results of few.”