Australia is the major, and in some cases, the sole supplier of live cattle, sheep and goats to overseas destinations.

In many cases, these countries don’t have the resources to produce sufficient livestock to feed their own population and as a result, they rely heavily on Australian livestock for their food security and, in some cases, social harmony.

The Australian livestock export industry contributes an average of $1 billion in export earnings annually to the Australian economy. The industry also employs approximately 13,000 people, mainly in regional and rural Australia and provides significant employment opportunities to indigenous people across northern Australia.

The importance of the live export industry to regional communities is amplified in northern and western Australia where livestock production has been transformed to meet the requirements of south-east Asian and Middle Eastern markets.

For many farmers in these areas, the industry is the only source of income and they supply the majority of live animals for export (approximately 75% of live sheep exports are from Western Australia and 80% of cattle are from northern Australia).

So why does Australia export live animals?

Australia has a long history of exporting livestock to many countries around the world and for many reasons, which have changed over time.

Some common reasons why countries demand Australian livestock include:

Processing live animals locally is often cheaper than buying boxed meat from Australia which is a higher input cost industry compared to its global competitors.
It supports a wide range of consumers and different market segments that live animals processed locally are most suited to (for example, wet markets).
Religious requirements, particularly around festival times, dictate the slaughter of live animals (now under Australian controlled conditions where Australian animals are involved).
Importing countries have confidence in the health status and quality of Australian livestock, Australia’s regulatory certification system and the ability to supply 365 days a year.
It supports public policy programs to increase meat and dairy consumption and the endeavours of importing countries to provide food security.

For more information please see these live trade frequently asked questions.

Find out more

Livestock exports

Animal health and welfare