Cheap cooking oil might be an illegal dust fix
Used cooking oil is considered a Restricted Animal Material (RAM) due to its potential contamination with animal products, and is therefore illegal to feed to dairy cattle, even in small amounts, unless appropriately treated by an accredited process. If caught, a marker is placed on your Property Identity Code (PIC) and exposed animals cannot be slaughtered in most abattoirs.
The Ruminant Feed Ban, preventing animal products being fed to cattle, sheep, goats and other ruminants, has been legislated in all Australian states and territories since 1997. This bans the feeding of products (known as Restricted Animal Material) that include meat (including chicken), fish, eggs, and other animal material.
The Ruminant Feed Ban is in place to prevent diseases like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as Mad Cow Disease, which has been seen in other countries like the outbreak that started in the UK in the 1980s. Prions, the agent which causes the disease, are not destroyed by heat or cooking.
While used cooking oil, utilised to suppress dust in crushed grain, may seem like a cheap alternative to fresh or treated oil, it is categorised as RAM due to the risk of contamination with meat products. Used cooking oils should only be sourced from establishments that are accredited to the National Standard for Recycling of Used Cooking Fats and Oils Intended for Animal Feeds by the Australian Renderers Association (ARA). These can be found on the AUSMEAT website under the ARA Accreditation search.
Another way dairy farmers may accidentally feed RAM is through home-made colostrum replacements, as some recipes found on the internet include eggs. It is important to note that doing so is not only prohibited, it also does not provide any evidence-based benefits to the calf and may risk exposing them to harmful pathogens such as salmonella.
When selling cattle, farmers are required to complete the National Vendor Declaration (NVD) form. This includes questions about whether the animals have been fed animal fat or RAM, such as untreated used cooking oil or eggs. As NVDs are a legal document, they must be completed truthfully.
Compliance with legislation may be checked at your dairy or Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) audit (note – dairy farms are exempt from random LPA audits, however, are eligible for targeted LPA audits). If found to be non-compliant, a marker will be placed on your Property Identity Code (PIC) to indicate to buyers of your animals they are not eligible to be slaughtered in export abattoirs. Some states may also have fines for Ruminant Feed Ban non-compliance.
More information on the Ruminant Feed Ban and RAM can be found on the Animal Health Australia website.