BIOSECURITY BREACH: Infested cattle escape onto farmers land
A WOMAN transporting tick-infested cattle along the Warrego Highway faced court with her employer, Melshay Pty Ltd, after the cattle escaped onto a farmer's property in a tick-free zone near Chinchilla, breaching the Biosecurity Act (2014).
Earlier this year, Dalby Magistrates Court heard Claire Louise Strasburg had the opportunity to dip the tick-infested cattle at saleyards in Nebo prior to making the journey across the South Burnett and Western Downs regions, which are cattle tick-free zone - but did not do so.
Magistrate Tracy Mossop said after cattle escaped along the Warrego Hwy, Strasburg called her manager and suggested unloading the cattle in Chinchilla, although when told she couldn't, she continued to her destination in Silverdale.
"Upon arrival at the Silverdale yards… a Biosecurity inspector saw that the cattle… had between 100 to 200 ticks per side on each animal - this was considered to be a heavy infestation of live ticks," Magistrate Mossop said.
"The cattle were not branded or tagged but were 'scrubbers', namely wild with limited exposure to human interaction."
Queensland biosecurity breach
Magistrate Mossop said Strasburg transported the tick-infested cattle through a cattle tick-free zone for three days in September 2018, because the prime mover had three trailers, and was unable to travel the alternative route through the approved tick-infected zone.
"The cattle were branded and tagged at the Nebo Sale Yards, it was known to Ms Strasburg, and observed at the sale yard, that the cattle were infested with cattle tick," Magistrate Mossop said.
"Despite the sale yards being equipped with cattle dipping facilities, at least 100 head of tick-infested cattle were loaded on to the three trailer, double-deck road train driven by Ms Strasburg.
"During that particular trip, three tick-infested cattle escaped from the prime mover when it was parked within the tick free zone.
"Strasburg stopped the road train at three separate locations to address the issue of cattle being down and not standing - this is an issue which puts the cattle at risk of injury or death."
Disaster struck three farming families
Stopping on a fourth occasion, Magistrate Mossop said Strasburg opened the gate to the middle trailer to attend to fallen cattle, although she was knocked to the ground, which resulted in three escaping and onto farmers land.
"All three tick-infested cattle that had escaped were eventually located by the owner of a 1420-acre grazing property, wholly within the tick-free zone," she said.
"When that grazier arrived home on 13 September, he immediately searched for the three cattle and found two of them within half an hour.
"After discussing what to do with a DAF officer, they were taken to Taroom dip yard."
The court heard two cattle had 10 to 15 ticks, and the third had so many it had to be put down.
Magistrate Mossop said the affected farmers suffered significant loss of money, with associated stresses and additional workloads.
"Three grazing properties were declared as infested by DAF and placed on the Biosecurity Register (four nine months)," she said.
"Eradication measures were put in place, those measures included the identified, affected landholders having to undertake treatment programs with natural implications on the movement of their stock."
"Financial compensation for eradication costs, paid by the (Melshay Pty Ltd) to affected landholders, totalled $16,082.56, most of that, if not all, was paid before 12 July 2019."
"In considering the impact upon Melshay in paying that compensation amount it is noted the invoice paid for the relevant cattle transportation totalled $15,957.90."
A year after the incident, Department of Agriculture of Fisheries officer Craig Allan Thomasson made a complaint against Strasburg and the livestock carrier company, alleging their actions breached two sections of the Biosecurity Act (2014).
At Dalby Magistrates Court on March 11, 2020, the pair pleaded guilty to two charges each of breaching obligations imposed by section 23(2) and (3)(a) of the Biosecurity Act (2014).
Counsel for the prosecution, Mr Nicolson, told the court the case was the first of its kind in Queensland.
As a result of the fateful trip, Magistrate Mossop imposed fines for the offence, with Melshay being fined one penalty of $25,000 for the two breaches.
Strasburg who is still in the employ of Melshay, was fined the one penalty of $5000, for breaching the act twice.
Melshay and Strasburg were also ordered to pay $97.95 to prosecution for court costs.
No convictions were recorded against either defendants.
The sections of the Biosecurity Act (2014) breached read as follows:
23(2): The person has an obligation (a general biosecurity obligation) to take all reasonable and practical measures to prevent and minimise the biosecurity risk.
23(3)(a): Also, the person has an obligation (also a general biosecurity obligation) to prevent or minimise adverse effects on a biosecurity consideration of the person's dealing with the biosecurity matter or carrier or carrying out the activity.