Sheep exports for the upcoming northern summer

15 March 2019

​​(Issued by Department of Agriculture)

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has released its proposed conditions for sheep exports to the Middle East for the upcoming northern summer to support animal welfare outcomes.

It is proposed that:

  • The allometric stocking densities, independent auditing of pen air turnover readings, automatic watering arrangements and reduced notifiable mortality level from the existing Northern Summer Order are maintained.
  • There will be a requirement for vessels to be equipped with automated data logging equipment to record wet bulb temperatures and for that data to be reported to the department for all voyages during northern summer to provide a comprehensive picture of animal welfare.
  • The Secretary will sign an Order prohibiting sheep exports from June to August by law.

Conditions for September and October will be determined once the Heat Stress Risk Assessment panel has completed its review, a Regulation Impact Statement has been undertaken and the additional evidence on voyages in May 2019 is examined.

The proposed conditions are based on consideration of the draft report of the Heat Stress Risk Assessment panel, submissions in response to the draft report and Independent Observer reports from May 2018.

The Northern Summer Order, which has been in place since the 2018 northern summer, requires live sheep voyages to the Middle East to comply with stricter conditions, including:

  • between 11 and 39 per cent more space for sheep than prescribed under the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock
  • independent auditing of pen air turnover readings to verify the data entered into the industry heat stress risk assessment model
  • only using vessels that have automatic watering arrangements installed for each sheep deck
  • a reduced notifiable mortality level for sheep exported by sea to the Middle East (from 2 to 1 per cent).

Independent Observers are also required on all voyages that can accommodate them to provide an additional layer of assurance that exporters are complying with their requirements.

There was little evidence of significant animal welfare issues on voyages during May 2018 and the department believes it is important to gather more information this May to inform future regulatory decision-making for the northern summer. There was also evidence in submissions that June represents an increase in hot weather, which informed the department's proposal.

The department will use the data to better understand sheep responses to varying wet bulb temperatures in a shipboard environment. This new evidence will be closely scrutinised to build a comprehensive evidence base for live export regulation.

The department remains committed to establishing a regulatory system that establishes the highest standards of animal welfare based on the best possible evidence.

New data gathered on voyages this year will be used to build a comprehensive evidence base for live export regulation in the future.

Feedback on the proposed conditions should be directed to NHS2019comments@agriculture.gov.au. The Secretary expects to make the final Orders on 22 March 2019.​

Further information is available at agriculture.gov.au/export/controlled-goods/live-animals/advisory-notices/2019/2019-04.