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Makaela Knapp, WA's Director for WoolProducers

Hi, I’m Makaela Knapp, Western Australia’s (WA) Director for WoolProducers Australia and I have held this role for just over a year. What a year in agriculture and policy it has been! The biggest challenge for WA producers has been the announcement of the phase-out date for the live sheep trade, a critical component of our sheep industry.


It has long been said that Australia was built on the sheep’s back and yet today agriculture often feels forgotten. We are increasingly having to deal with policies that make our job harder.


Speaking with different producers there is frustration, anger, sadness, and questions of “why?”.  Why is this decision based on ideology, not science? We have adopted the moratorium, changed ship configurations, stocking space and so much more, why shut us down? Why didn’t they listen to us? Why are we being used as pawns in Labor’s game to win votes? Farmers and our allied industries are progressive and without a doubt resilient BUT there are limits to the burden of regulation. 


For the phase out date to be announced in the middle of seeding during an abnormally dry period where there had not yet been a break in the weather was extremely insensitive. People were carting water and feed, lambing and simply trying to keep their heads above water.


Minister Watt’s comments during the announcement also showed a total lack of understanding and respect for WA producers and our production environment.


The Ministers comments that the East coast survives without a live export market showed just how out of touch he is, blatantly ignoring how different WA is from the rest of the country when it comes to demand, market access and production conditions. Yes, producers in the east no longer access live export due to different production and market systems. These east coast options are not applicable to Western Australian producers.


Our climate is also very different. WA has prolonged dry summer periods over the sheep production regions. Dams dry up fast and producers supplementary feed and/or turn their sheep onto harvested stubbles. We refer to this as the “summer/ autumn feed gap.” In the 2023/24 season, it started in September and continued into May.


Another suggestion that frustrates growers is telling us we need to breed a better type of sheep to be processed here. This is a flawed statement because our quality of our sheep is multi-purpose. The Live Export market takes various classes of sheep within body condition score 2 to 4, these types of sheep are perfectly suited to long distance sea voyagers and the end markets that they are destined for. Importantly it is worth noting that although these sheep are suitable for domestic processing there is not enough domestic kill space available, hence why it is so important to keep the trade going as without it there is less of an economic incentive to run sheep at all.


During summer and autumn when local processors are operating at peak capacity, you cannot get kill space and want to focus on your breeding stock, Live Export is the ideal market to turn off excess stock. This competition within the sheep market holds processors accountable and keeps it fair; and ensures that there isn’t a monopoly, something that the recent supermarket inquiry has highlighted is much needed in the primary produce sector. With processors kill space increasingly being taken by feedlots, Live Export allows other producers to find a commercially viable market.


Activists and the government express concern about animal welfare but removing Australia - a world leader in animal welfare; from the market will have dire consequences. Without our influence and the standards set by the ESCAS system, countries with lower welfare standards will step in, undoing the progress made in animal welfare. How detrimental is that for animal welfare overall?


However, last Friday WA producers and all those who will be impacted including the truck drivers through to shearers and wool brokers proudly united as 1700 vehicles and over 3000 people peacefully stood as one. They drove through the Perth city in a convoy to express their frustrations and remind our city friends of the impact Labor’s policy is having in the regions; what their fellow Western Australian is going through. The country spirit was alive and shining bright in Perth on the day.


 As the saying goes: actions speak louder than words. The countless submissions we put into the phase out panel weren’t heard but the convoy showed the government we won’t go down without a fight; our voices will be heard and seen across our state and nation. The launching of the Keep The Sheep campaign provides a platform that can be widely supported. Please take the time to sign the petition at and donate if you can Thank you!

Makaela Knapp

Director, WoolProducers Australia


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