Preparing for the journey

With shipments ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 animals, the logistics to manage livestock being exported can be overwhelming. Before they leave New Zealand, they need to spend time in a pre-export isolation facility. 

The process is comprehensive with extensive paperwork, and only a small number of farms have the capability to carry out the process and house such a large number of animals. And they are disappointed at the decision the government has made.

“We are lucky here, we export 90% of our agricultural production to countries that aren’t self-sufficient and need countries like us to help them feed their people.”

“It's a reality we breed more animals than we need in NZ, and if I was a cow I’d rather go on a boat trip and learn a bit of mandarin than have my head chopped off.”

The teams running the show are experienced and efficient so it is smooth sailing from the day the animals start arriving to when they leave the facilities to board their ship.

Rigorous testing

Before they leave their farm of origin the animals undergo various testing and are kept separate from other animals for a specific time period. They are tested again when they arrive at the pre-export isolation facility, scanned, weighed and sorted into mobs.

Throughout their time in pre-export isolation cattle get pregnancy tested and any freemartins are removed, there are various blood tests, vaccinations and drench programmes carried out. They come through the yards five or six times and the teams need to be on the ball with management.

The work creates employment for a number of local people and although it is consistent, the proven processes keep things moving so they are not flat out. It does mean the whole team need to be focused, especially with all the rigorous quality control checks and paperwork involved.

A week before they are due to depart they will begin transitioning onto the diet they will receive on the ship. Special pellets are made, including some of their fibre requirements, as they are the most efficient feed to transport on the ship and an easy way to guarantee the cattle are receiving quality nutrients.

The whole process runs like a well-oiled machine and has been done for many years but there is always room for improvement and the farmers involved with pre-export isolation would happily oblige to any further requirements to support the continuation of the trade.

This story was first published in the December 2021 issue of Dairy Farmer magazine.


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