Risks associated with grazing or cutting failed crops for stockfeed
During times of drought and other natural disasters, farmers are often faced with the difficult decision of whether to allow failed crops to continue until harvest, to cut them early for stockfeed, or to allow livestock to graze on them.
In most circumstances, a number of pesticides have been applied to a crop throughout the growing season. These pesticides can take the form of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides or any combination of these groups.
When making a decision as to the fate of a failed crop, farmers must take into consideration what chemicals have been used on the crop, because the chemical history of a failed crop may limit what options are available for it.
Most growers plan a chemical program for a given crop at the beginning of the growing season. These plans need a degree of flexibility to account for unforeseen events, such as sudden pest problems.
These plans rarely account for crop failure and as a result, any alternative uses of the crop. Regardless of whether the crop is harvested, grazed or cut for use as stockfeed, observing any withholding periods (WHPs) are critical to managing chemical residues in the crop and livestock.
Withholding periods (WHPs)
Withholding periods (WHPs) are detailed on the chemical product label, usually in a specific section after the Directions for Use. They set a minimum period of time that must elapse between the last application of the chemical and the 'use' of the crop. In these circumstances, the 'use' of the crop can be defined as when it is harvested, grazed, or cut for stockfeed.
Withholding periods commonly follow the form shown in the following example:
'DO NOT harvest for 4 weeks after application'
According to the WHP outlined above, a farmer would not be permitted to harvest the crop until four weeks after the chemical was applied to the crop.
Chemical product labels may contain specific warnings related to the grazing or cutting of treated crops for stockfeed, such as:
'DO NOT graze or cut for stock food earlier than 6 weeks after application'
According to the WHP outlined above, the crop must not be grazed or cut for stock food for at least six weeks after the chemical had been applied to the crop.
Failure to comply with WHPs can lead to unacceptable levels of chemical residues in livestock products such as milk, meat and eggs. The consequences of such residues can be severe for Australian producers, particularly in regard to access to export markets.
Under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemical (Control of Use) Act 1992, it is an offence to sell agricultural produce, including hay, which has been made from a treated crop where a WHP has not expired, unless the seller notifies the buyer in writing that the WHP has not expired.
It is also an offence to sell livestock that have entered land or grazed on land where a WHP has not expired, unless the seller notifies the buyer in writing that the WHP has not expired.
The penalty for these offences is a maximum of 200 penalty units for corporations, and 100 in any other case.
Vendor declarations are valuable tools available to both sellers and purchasers of stockfeed that ensure clear communication regarding a wide range of issues, including the use of chemicals on stockfeed. The use of vendor declarations such as Meat and Livestock Australia's (MLA) Commodity Vendor Declarations will help to ensure that the purchaser is fully aware of the chemical history of the stockfeed.
Vendors of livestock that have grazed or been fed failed crops where a WHP has not expired must record this information when completing a National Vendor Declaration as part of MLA's Livestock Production Assurance program.
In order to manage chemical residue risks in stockfeed, farmers must review the chemical history of failed crops to determine the status of any WHPs. If a WHP cannot be complied with, the seller must notify the buyer in writing of this fact prior to selling the stockfeed, grain, etc.
The use of vendor declarations is advisable to ensure clear communication between the vendor and purchaser of stockfeed, grain, etc.
DEDJTR Chemical Standards Officers
Fax: 03 5430 4590
|Steve Field||(03) 5430 4463|
|Alex Perera||(03) 5430 4591|
|Felicity Collins||(03) 5833 5203|
|Neil Harrison||(03) 5336 6616|
|Jane Rhodes||(03) 5147 0832|
Enquiries from other regions should be directed to the nearest of the above-named regional officers.
Published and Authorised by:
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR)
1 Spring Street
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The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication