12 Jun 2015

Sheep on ship well-cared for, says broker

8:25 am on 12 June 2015

The livestock broker who organised a shipment of live sheep to Mexico says the animals will be well-cared for on their journey.

Livestock carrier Nada at PrimePort Timaru.

Livestock carrier Nada at PrimePort Timaru. Photo: Supplied

Almost 50,000 sheep and 3000 cattle left Timaru for Mexico yesterday amid concerns for their welfare.

The broker, Peter Walsh, said every care has been taken to ensure the animals' comfort.

Animal rights group SAFE feared many sheep would not survive and said there was no guarantee what will happen to the animals when they reach their destination.

But Mr said the vessel could carry 110,000 sheep so there was plenty of room and the sheep have been clipped to keep them cool.

Mr Walsh said the air on board was constantly changed and the animals would be kept well-fed and watered.

"There's a lot of room, it's great underfloor rubber gripping matting and pallets that they've been pre-conditioned two-to-three weeks from the feedlot to eat.

"And continued water as well. So [they're] very well cared for."

He said conditions were "better than my lounge".

Shipments of live animals from New Zealand for slaughter is banned, and the sheep on the Nada are being sent for breeding purposes, he said.

South Island farmer Mark Adams, who put 1,200 sheep on the ship, believed they would arrive in good order and would not be for slaughter.

Mr Adams said he understood the ship was well designed, and he was satisfied the sheep were being transported in good conditions.

"The buyer has made a huge commitment and cost to get these animals across there live.

"I just don't believe that they're going there to be killed because the bulk of them would be in lamb and they wouldn't be good for eating," he said.

Mr Adams added that if it was meat Mexico wanted, then there were cheaper ways of getting it.

Mr Adams said he had to adhere to very tight health protocols, and administer vaccines which were time-sensitive.

He said sheep farmers had emerged from a very grim and costly drought.

"We were probably in the middle of one of the harder droughts I've been involved with since I started farming in the early 1980s, it was very stressful.

"You're looking at your financial year and it was shaping up to be a disaster, and that's stressful," Mr Adams said.

He said farmers had been looking at an average lamb price this year of about $62 because of the dry conditions, and it was a price that was not sustainable.

"That's going backwards, by signing up to a boat contract we were able to lift that to the early $80 - that's still not acceptable, but it is better than the loss we were looking at."

Mr Adams said he was satisfied the sheep are travelling in acceptable conditions because the work he had to do to prepare them.

"A lot of that's got to do with the amount of hoops I had to jump through to get these lambs up to export quality.

"It wasn't easy at this end - there were vets involved and we had some some very strict criteria, so I would assume that's the same on the boat," he said.