21 Nov 2022

More live cattle forecast to be exported in 2022 than 2021

11:14 am on 21 November 2022
Dairy cows in a milking facility in New Zealand.

Photo: 123rf

The number of cattle exported by sea in 2022 looks to surpass the amount sent offshore in 2021 despite the practice being phased out.

Last year a total of 134,722 cattle were exported, so far this year 95,353 have left our shores for China.

A further five shipments have been given Animal Welfare Export Certificates from The Ministry for Primary Industries to export a total of 40,440 cattle before the end of the year.

If they take place as planned the number of animals exported this year will be 135,793 slightly above last years' number.

China imports live cattle from countries like New Zealand to build up its own dairy herd.

But last year the government announced it would ban the practice from April 2023 following a review.

Gulf Livestock 1 vessel off the shores of Malaga in 2018.

A temporary ban was put in place in September 2020 after the ship Gulf Livestock 1 sank in the East China Sea. The ship went down with 43 crew and nearly 6000 cattle. Photo: Frans Truyens via Vessel Finder

Animal Genetic Trade Association chair Mark Willis said despite New Zealand banning live exports, the demand from China remained.

"China, like a number of developing nations in the world, has an increasing middle class, so they have increased demand for first world food products and dairy is one of those, so the demand for live dairy cattle is going to continue."

Willis said exports were not ramping up ahead of the ban as there are capacity issues when exporting stock such as quarantine space.

"There are exporters who plan to continue to export up until the ban is enforced in the on 30 April. So I expect that there'll still be some export activity in the first quarter of next year."

He said when the ban comes into effect, China would look to take its business elsewhere.

"They're looking to alternate markets, obviously. So, what we're seeing is the price lifting for cattle in places like Australia and increasing connectivity between Chinese buyers and South America where they're looking to buy more cattle from.

"So those countries are going to benefit economically from New Zealand banning the practice and in some cases they might not be interested in providing the gold standard in animal welfare which the industry here proposed to the government."

Willis said despite exports continuing for now, workers in the industry were already looking for new jobs for when the ban came into effect.

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