Vetting on board

Ensuring cattle arrive in the best possible condition and lead a happy life is highly important. Everyone involved in exporting livestock from New Zealand's shore values their welfare from the moment they enter the supply chain, right through their productive life. 

A typical day on the ship

The first riser gets up at 4:30 am to check all the cattle before meeting the crew for breakfast at 7 am. After breakfast, the team head to their designated areas and spend nearly three hours inspecting every single animal. They are looking for any signs of injury or disease and dislodging any limb or head that may have gotten in an awkward spot.

“While we’re doing our rounds we are writing down anything worth noting and head back to swap notes at morning tea,” says Dave Barton, a Rangitikei veterinarian that has been on four export voyages.

“We confirm our plan of attack, which animals should be moved to the hospital pens on each deck for observation or treatment and what the treatment plans look like.”

Photo: Dave Kermode, Dave Barton (vet) and Guy Haynes.

There is at least one veterinarian onboard each shipment who oversees the care of the livestock, and several stockmen based on the number of stock. They are well prepared with medication and materials for various treatments.

After the morning treatments, they meet as a team again for lunch before heading out to repeat all the checking and further treatments in the afternoon. The cycle finishes around 4 pm and days feel quick since they are consistently busy.

Chinese vets inspecting the cattle before they disembark.

A BBQ on board a ship.

Special connections

The animals get used to the interaction and quickly become quiet, with the dairy heifers stretching out for a cheeky lick whenever they are within reach.

“Even the Angus weaners settle well, it’s a great experience to work so closely with the stock.
“And we really enjoy the comradery among the team, it’s quite collegial,” Barton says.
Delivering the goods

“It’s a great sight when we arrive, even if it’s the middle of the night they’re all out on the docks waiting excitedly. The animals are really valuable to the Chinese.”

Dave has been on shipments ranging from 3,500 cattle to 8,000 but the management remains the same. And with his first-hand experience, and knowing the animals are destined for the big operations when they arrive, Barton supports the practice.

“It would be a different story if they were destined for a backyard like you see some cows over there, but these are expensive animals and we can be sure about the facilities they’re destined for.”
This story was first published in the November 2021 issue of Dairy Farmer magazine.


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