Live sheep and cattle exports

Strict rules govern the export of live animals overseas. MPI's role is to ensure the welfare of the animals on their journey.

Rules reflect high welfare expectations

The rules governing the export of live animals overseas reflect the high expectations New Zealanders have around animal welfare. Under the Animal Welfare (Export of Livestock for Slaughter) Regulations 2016, no live animals may be exported for slaughter without the prior approval of the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

MPI's role is to ensure the welfare of the animals on their journey. We take a number of steps before departure and during the journey to ensure the animals' welfare.

Before departure:

  • MPI is regularly in touch with exporters to determine the health status of the animals and assess an application for the issue of an Animal Welfare Export Certificate.
  • Animals are preconditioned to the diet (dry pellet food) they will be fed on the voyage. Animals who are unlikely to successfully transition to the pellets are not selected for export.
  • MPI vets inspect all animals to ensure they are in good condition. The animals are only cleared to travel when the vet is satisfied they are fit to travel.

During the journey

MPI requires a range of measures to ensure the welfare of animals while they are being transported, including:

  • Animals must be given the right amounts of water, food, space and facilities. Medicines and equipment for treating any animals that become unwell during the journey must also be on hand.
  • People experienced in handling animals must be on board. For sea voyages, the minimum requirement is at least one experienced stockman per 1,500 cattle and at least 2 experienced stockmen for a shipment of up to 60,000 sheep in addition to the crew of the vessel.

On arrival

MPI does not have jurisdiction and cannot require verification of animal welfare after the animals arrive.

It is in the importer’s best interests that the prime breeding stock remain in excellent condition so they can make a return on their investment.

The exporter should provide a report to MPI on how the animals travelled within 20 working days of completion of the voyage.

If MPI ever became aware of any information that contradicted information provided by the exporter – either in a voyage report or the stated purpose of the animals – this would be taken into account when applications for future exports are made.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about animal welfare, email

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