The Australian government, livestock industry (including producers and veterinarians), media, animal welfare groups and the general public have shown a keen interest in the care and welfare of sheep, cattle and goats being exported from Australia.
Each year, the Australian livestock export industry provides a breakdown of how many sheep, cattle and goats were exported, the month that shipments left Australia, and the sea ports or airports where livestock were loaded and unloaded. This includes details of how many animals were safely delivered and how many died along the way, but does not specify the cause of death.
This project summarised the performance of the Australian livestock export industry in 2018. The number of sheep exported by sea dropped by more than a third compared to the previous year, due to a moratorium on exports during the northern hemisphere summer.
The performance reports provide consistent, comparable data that can be matched against previous years. This acts as a gauge of how the Australian livestock export industry is performing and encourages continued improvement.
This project provided data regarding sheep, cattle and goats exported live from Australia during 2018 by sea and air, including time of year, age and sex of the animals, and the number that died during export.
The collection of this information has enabled the long-term mapping of the Australian livestock export industry’s overall performance year on year.
There were 1.14 million sheep exported by sea. Of these, 0.46% died during the voyages, which was lower than 2017 (0.71%)
There were 31,834 sheep exported by air. Of these, 0.01% died during the flights, which was lower than 2017 (0.04%).
There were 1.12 million cattle exported by sea. Of these, 0.12% died during the voyages, which was an increase on the rate of 0.10% the previous year.
There were 11,646 cattle exported by air. All were successfully delivered to their destinations.
There were 22,644 goats exported by air. Of these, 0.053% died during the flights, which was higher than the rate of 0.016% the previous year.
There were no goats exported by sea during 2018.
Other key findings of interest include:
The number of sheep exported from Australia fell by 37.7% in 2018 compared to 2017. This was due to a moratorium on the export of sheep to the Middle East during the northern summer, and lower numbers being carried on each ship for other parts of the year.
Historical collection of data, via projects like this one, has shown there has been an overall drop in the mortalities of sheep involved in the live export trade. This has been attributed to a number of factors:
improvements in livestock care and management and ship design
a shift towards Australia exporting younger wethers (castrated male sheep) to meet customer needs in different overseas countries.
Ongoing analysis of the performance of the Australian livestock export industry, especially in areas of key interest such as the welfare of animals, provides valuable data that enables continued improvement in management practices.
The restrictions placed on sea transport of livestock during the northern hemisphere summer introduced in 2018/19 mean that long-term databases have been irretrievably disrupted. The industry’s regulation is also shifting emphasis from mortality (deaths) as a measure of performance to the recording and analysis of various animal welfare indicators. It is recommended that any further reporting include measures such as welfare instead of just mortality.