A CALL for the state government to consider an emergency importation of cottonseed to alleviate a looming shortage has been given short shrift in Brisbane.
Blackall grazier John Cameron has been feeding cottonseed and Anipro supplement to his breeding herd since the end of August and is concerned by news from his supplier that further loads would be almost impossible to source, or would only be available at greatly increased prices.
"This stuff is tightly held by merchants and lotfeeders - I could easily see us running short," Mr Cameron said.
"We've put so much into keeping our cattle going, and most of our cattle are strong enough to truck if need be, but they're dependent on their feed now. If it wasn't there, they'd go downhill fast."
Mr Cameron said he made the choice to feed cottonseed because it was easy to get at the time, and because he'd had success with it in the drought years from 2001 to 2007, discovering that stock didn't gorge themselves on it.
"We're not after handouts, we're just very concerned about what might happen if it stays dry.
"The price has risen from $400/tonne to around $700 and a lot of people are reaching the end of their reserves.
"The government just doesn't seem to be showing a lot of interest in our problems or trying to come up with answers.
"I just wonder if they could help us source more seed from overseas."
A spokesperson for Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said that importing cottonseed would require meeting quality control issues with the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.
"Australia has stringent quality control systems in place to produce local genetically modified cottonseed and under strict guidelines from multinational seed breeding companies, such as Monsanto," she said.
"Other feed supplements may be more cost effective and face less import issues than might be the case for cottonseed."
Mr Cameron said he had been looking into other options, such as barley, pellets or grapeskin residue, but hadn't found a replacement that stock would do as well on, or cost an arm and a leg to transport to western Queensland.
Agforce CEO Charles Burke said stock feed imports had been considered in past droughts but were brought up short by logistics and cost.
"It appears plausible at first glance but there are issues of disease control and import protocols to manage, and the cost could be prohibitive," he said.
"There are no easy answers."
The departmental spokesperson added that producers were best placed to plan for and prepare for the risk of drought, including ensuring adequate supplementary feeding that suits their individual circumstances.
The new cotton harvest is due to start around March or April.