Frequently Asked Questions


We understand you may have questions about the live cattle export sector. We have created the following FAQs to help discuss some of the more common questions we are asked. We plan on continually adding to these to be as open and transparent about the sector.

Why do we export live cattle?

The Cattle Collective was developed to provide insights about the cattle export trade on behalf of our Australian cattle farmers, truck drivers, vets and industry representatives. In creating this Collective on behalf of the cattle export industry, we aim to provide you with some of the sector facts and why the health and welfare of our cattle is so important to us.

Why can’t producers just do something else with their land other than breed and sell livestock?

Emma White from the Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association explains why cattle producers from the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of WA can’t just ‘go do something else’ with their land. Pastoral leases are leases over Crown land which gives the lessee the right to graze authorised livestock on the natural vegetation. SOURCE: https://www.dplh.wa.gov.au/information-an…/…/pastoral-leases

What role do vet’s play in cattle live exports?

Bryce Mooring explains his role as a veterinarian working in Western Australia. Vets are critical to ensure the health and well-being of the cattle in all parts of the supply chain.

How are cattle transported?

Mark de San Miguel is a truck driver owner/operator out of Broome and explains how cattle are transported in the live export supply chain. A role where you have to be a stock person too, not just a truck driver.

Why can't we just process them in Australia and send as boxed meat?

There is strong demand for both chilled and live animals from many countries that Australia exports to. These two trades are often complimentary due to catering to different demographics in the importing countries. Chilled meat only has a shelf life of 70 days and caters to more affluent demographics because the cost of importing chilled and frozen meat is much more expensive than fresh meat from wet markets.

What do the crew do on cattle live export boats?

Peter, an experienced First Mate explains the daily routine for him and his crew on-board a livestock export vessel – and why they love what they do.

What training do livestock carriers undertake?

John Mitchell explains the importance of low stress stock handling in the transportation of livestock.

Why become a live export vet?

Veterinarians like Mik Hopper are part of the livestock industry because they care about animal welfare and want to see it constantly improve.

Why do we export live cattle to South East Asia?

South East Asia is one of Australia’s closest trading partners home to over 640 million people. They generally don’t have the sufficient land and knowledge to have large scale breeding operations like Northern Australia. These countries also have large amounts of agricultural by-products (PKC, Pineapple husk) that they can feed livestock on food products humans don’t eat relatively cheaply.

Animals are processed late at night/early hours of the morning and sold fresh and hot (never refrigerated) in the market early in the morning. Tradition and culture leads to a huge emphasis on fresh ‘hot’ meat as a preference.

The cattle bred in Northern Australia are the preference by our SE Asian customers as they are similar to their local cattle. They are heat resistant (due to similar climates), disease free and have low amounts of fat (Asian customers don’t like fat in their meat). Australians eat a different species of cattle that puts a large emphasis on fattier and tender meat which are bred in the cooler climates of Southern Australia.

Provides an alternate market for Australian producers – especially in time of drought and flood to off take large amounts of cattle in single sweeps when processors are full.

How long is average voyage?

The average voyage from:

  • Broome to Jakarta is approximately 3.5 days
  • Darwin to Jakarta is approximately 4.5 days
  • Townsville to Jakarta is approximately 8 days
  • Broome to HCMC is approximately 6 days
  • Darwin to HCMC is approximately 6.5 days
  • Townsville to HCMC is approximately 9.5 days

Do the decks get washed?

Depending on the voyage length. Often the voyages are too short to require a wash. If the pad is dry, it becomes a comfortable bedding for the animals.

What happens when cattle get sick on board the vessel?

Depending on the illness of the animal but general procedure is:

  • Identify the animal and what is believed to be the issue
  • If required, pull the animal out of its pen and move it to a hospital pen
  • Each vessel is equipped with a range of medicines which the stockman will administer to the animal
  • Continue to monitor and treat the animal accordingly

How well do the animals travel (weight gain)?

Most exporters aim to have a weight gain on the cattle between Australia and their destination port. Cattle will only eat and have this weight gain is they are comfortable and healthy. The cattle from Northern Australia are tough animals well suited to the South East Asian climate leading to an extremely high success rate on voyages.

How long do cattle spend in feedlots in market?

  • In Indonesia, cattle generally spend 90 – 120 days in a feedlot. During this time, the cattle will generally put on 1.4kg+/day
  • In Vietnam, cattle will spend from 30 – 120 days in a feedlot

How do we know the livestock will be cared for?

Once the cattle are delivered, they remain in a supply chain which has been independently audited by third party auditors to look at the facility, infrastructure and staff animal handling techniques. These audits are then provided to the Australian government for approval. Australia is the only country to have made this a requirement of the livestock export trade. Indonesia was the first country to have the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) brought in. ESCAS ensures that animals are only move through third party, independently audited to World Animal Health (OIE) certifications. ESCAS covers the animal health and welfare standards once Australian animals are delivered in market. Exporters remain responsible for the animals till post slaughter.

What is the daily routine on board?

Each stockman will have their own routine, but an example is:

  • 5:30am – 6am: Scan the decks prior to feeding to observe how the cattle are acting in a rest period
  • 6am -7:30am: Watch the cattle as they are receiving their morning feed. Seeing how aggressive they are on the feed, seeing which animals are hanging back and understanding the mood of the cattle
  • 7:30 – 8:30am: Stockman breakfast
  • 8:30am – 10am: Do the ‘rounds’. This is ensuring every animal stands up, checking their legs and individually assessing the animals to ensure they are all comfortable and healthy
  • 10 – 10:30am: Morning Smoko
  • 10:30 – 11:30am: Any other checks/treatments that are required. Moving animals to hospital pens if requiring any extra TLC. If required, a top up of feed can be given.
  • 11:30-12:30: Morning meeting with Chief mate and Bosun (Deck Boss) about the voyage. At this time if adjustments to plans need to be made, it will be done here. The stockman will then go and write their daily report about the voyage to be sent to the exporter (and the department depending on voyage)
  • 12:30 – 1:30pm: Stockman Lunch
  • 1:30 – 3pm: Walking the decks to observe the cattle. Making a plan for the afternoon feed. Helping the crew clean waters.
  • 3 – 3:30pm: Afternoon Smoko
  • 3:30 – 5:30pm: Afternoon feed. Doing the rounds of the cattle.
  • Between 5:30pm and 5:30am there will be a night watchman that goes through the decks to clean waters and observe the cattle. If they observe any issues, they will alert the stockperson immediately. The stockperson may also go down in the evenings to have a look at the cattle whilst they are in a resting state. You do not want to constantly be disturbing the cattle in the evening as they are trying to rest.

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