A Canterbury sheep breeder with stock on board a major shipment to Mexico says she has been in touch with the destination farm and has no concerns about the animals' safety.
Penni Loffhagen, who is one of the biggest Suffolk stud breeders in the country, has sold 15 young pedigree sheep to a Mexican farm for breeding.
Her ewes and rams are among 50,000 sheep now at sea on the way to Mexico.
Animal welfare lobby group SAFE has said it has serious doubts the sheep are going there just for breeding purposes - and estimated that hundreds could die on the way.
However, Ms Loffhagen said she met a Mexican farmer over the internet who picked breeding stock from photos she provided. She said they were pedigree-registered here and would be registered once over there.
Ms Loffhagen said she had no concerns about her sheep's safety during the trip.
She added that, while her decision to sell stock was not brought on by New Zealand's dry summer, her sheep were set for greener pastures.
"The photos that I've seen of the farm that my particular animals are going to has more grass than we do by a long way," she said.
"Lovely lush green grass. My animals will be frightened by the amount of feed because it is very dry where we are. They're certainly going to a fabulous place."
Minister says shipment not unusual
Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said the latest shipment, while large, was not unusual and Mexico was one of New Zealand's biggest live animal markets.
"In 2007, 35,000 sheep went to Mexico. This not new. From 2005 to 2008, about 80,000 cattle have gone to Mexico," he said.
"These are for breeding. This is potentially going to offer premiums for South Island sheep farmers, a higher price than what they can currently get, so as I see it, this is a win-win."
Figures from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) have confirmed the growth in New Zealand's life animal export trade.
Revenue from those exports for the year ending June was expected to almost double to $407 million.
That was largely due to an increase in live cow exports, with about 73,000 cows expected to be exported to China in the current year and a further 8000 to 10,000 to Mexico, Vietnam and the Philippines.
MPI sector policy director Jarred Mair said as well as cattle and sheep, which were exported for breeding, New Zealand also sent thoroughbred horses to Australia.
"The big growth story is in exports of dairy cattle to China. That in itself represents two key factors. One is obviously the development of a new dairy production base in China, and Fonterra is investing heavily in that," he said.
"But also it's a recognition of the value in the IP [intellectual property] that we have in terms of generating high-producing dairy cattle being used and exported to develop that industry over there."