New standards for live cattle exports

Friday 28 May 2004

A new standard is in place for the live export of cattle from New Zealand.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has been working alongside industry to review and update the MAF standard the Transport of Live Cattle by Sea from New Zealand. There has been a standard in place since the mid 90s, and it has been continually improved and refined since then, to ensure the highest levels of welfare for the cattle during transportation.

Wayne Ricketts, MAF Programme Manager Animal Welfare said that the latest revision followed the deaths during the trip of 90 dairy cows being transported to Mexico in July 2003 with a further 20 having to be humanely destroyed on or following arrival.

A MAF investigation at the time concluded that the deaths were the direct result of appalling weather conditions that struck the shipment of 720 cattle soon after leaving Napier and continued for the whole voyage. An earlier shipment of 1,100 cows arrived in Mexico without any adverse events.

Dr Ricketts said the storm conditions experienced by the June 2003 shipment were extraordinary and attempts to sail around the storm were unsuccessful.

"The captain of 40-years experience described the storm as one of the worst he had ever encountered and the crew were forced to sleep on the floor during most of the journey," he said.

The standard now requires the shipper to provide a report detailing number and reasons for any deaths during the voyage to MAF within 10 working days of the voyage end. Failure to comply will result in future shipments not being able to depart. Where there is evidence that the welfare of the cattle on a previous shipment was not properly attended to, the Director-General may require an exporter to have a veterinarian accompany the next consignment.

Other additions include that if pregnant cattle are being exported they must be no more than six months pregnant; an experienced stockman must accompany all shipments and where a veterinarian does not accompany a shipment there must be a contingency plan must be in place to ensure that a nominated experienced cattle veterinarian can be contacted in New Zealand to provide veterinary advice, if needed. A full veterinary kit is always carried on board to treat injuries and sick animals.

"Regrettably there is only so much that one can do in the face of ferocious storms, but fortunately this is a rare occurrence. Normally shipments go without hitches and deaths are uncommon," he said.

The June 2003 shipment was inspected before departure and complied with MAF recommendations that the vessel be light loaded by 10 percent, and that it be accompanied by an experienced New Zealand stockman. A Mexican Government veterinarian was also on board.

New Zealand previously exported about 10,000 cattle per year but in the past few months this has increased markedly with approximately 30,000 cattle being exported to China for breeding and milk production.

MAF's standard for the Transport of Live Cattle by Sea from New Zealand can be viewed at:

For more information contact: MAF Senior Communications Adviser Philippa White 0-4-498 9948 or 0-27-223 1875



Last Updated: 28 September 2010

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