South Canterbury farmers say the live export of dairy cattle is becoming increasingly important for the region's economy.
A Federated Farmers survey indicates its members are expecting a bleak year ahead, with almost 64% of wool and meat farmers anticipating that their profitability will drop.
Over 20,000 thousand ewes and two-tooths have been sold at this year's Temuka lamb sale - the largest sell down since the late 1970s.
Stock agent Peter Walsh says sheep farmers are increasingly turning to dairy farming and breeding dairy cattle for export.
Mr Walsh says a shipment like the 7200 heifers that left Timaru last week for China is worth about $13 million to the economy.
But animal welfare group SAFE said at the time that the 17-day trip would be highly stressful for the animals and rough weather could lead to injuries.
The Timaru Chamber of Commerce says breeding dairy cattle for sale is increasing, as it provides another revenue stream for farmers.
Chief executive Tony Howey says live exporting also supports grain producers, trucking companies and the town's port.