The cows were transported on an Atlas Air B747-8 freighter
AUSTRALIAN exports authorities have launched an investigation after dozens of cows were suffocated to death on a B747-8 freighter flight from Melbourne to Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The export cattle, said to be part of a Kazakh government breeding programme, were among 213 loaded into specially-designed boxes and placed on the top deck of the Atlas Air aircraft.
Reports claim that up to 49 heifers died during the 17-hour flight when the aircraft's air conditioning system failed.
Cattle on the lower deck were unaffected.
Veterinarians say those on the upper level may have asphyxiated after ammonia from animal wastes produced toxic gases.
It is reported that a mechanical breakdown affecting the freighter's air conditioning system is believed to have left the 49 cattle without oxygen.
Garry Robinson, chief executive of Australian exporter Livestock Shipping Services, told newspapers that the air shipment was his fifth in as many weeks taking cattle from Australia to Kazakhstan.
An Australian Department of Agriculture spokesperson reports that authorities are committed to a ‘prompt and thorough’ investigation.
Kazakhstan has been seeking a genetic stimulation to its ailing livestock, with imports of quality stock from Australia and other trusted sources.
The Kazakhstan government has imported 1592 breeding cattle from Australia since July last year, under a scheme to strengthen the country’s livestock production and meat capacity.
Kazakhstan has no sea port and airfreight is the preferred method of transporting cattle to the country.
John Edwards, chairman of Western Australia’s livestock exporters association says the industry carried thousands of animals by air last year and with no mortality recorded.
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