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Permission has been granted for 4,500 breeding Holstein heifers to be shipped from New Zealand to China on a trip that will last 15 days.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) officials issued an Animal Welfare Export Certificate (AWEC) on Wednesday for the shipment of cattle from the Port of Napier to China. It is understood the shipment is destined for a large dairy operation already established in China. The Holstein breeding dairy cattle are being transported on the Awassi Express, owned by Saudi businessman, Hmood Alali Al-Khalaf.

Animal welfare needs

Officials granted the shipping certificate following ‘extensive assessments to ensure animal welfare requirements were met’. MPI's director animal and animal products, Paul Dansted, said: “The health and welfare of the animals is the number one priority for MPI. No AWEC would be granted unless MPI was confident that all animal welfare requirements had been met.

"Once the vessel arrived in New Zealand, MPI veterinarians undertook a detailed assessment of the ship to ensure there was adequate feed, ventilation and water on-board as well as safe and clean holding pens for the animals. "An MPI veterinarian inspects all animals at the port to ensure they are fit to travel. In addition, Chinese veterinarians have overseen the animals to ensure they meet Chinese requirements.

Requirements during voyage

"During the voyage, the exporter must meet requirements around water, food, space, facilities and having suitably experienced stockmen and/or veterinarians. "They must also have medicines and equipment for treating animals in case any become unwell during the journey. If unusual levels of mortality or sickness occur during the voyage, the ship's master has to report immediately to MPI,” he added.

Experienced stockmen travel with cattle

On board the ship are 3 experiences stockmen who will check the cattle at least 4 times per day. Australian based Landmark is handling the shipment and said it contained ‘a consignment of high quality Holstein breeding heifers for an unnamed but large and well established dairy operation in China.’

The vessel’s suitability for shipping livestock

Landmark export manager Stephen Reynolds said: “The vessel is a recently converted livestock carrier built specifically for the Australian and New Zealand markets meeting the highest possible world standards as set by the Australian and New Zealand Maritime authorities for the carriage of live animals. "Under the strict NZ government standards for the export of breeding livestock the vessel is capable of transporting in excess of 16,000 head of animals of the same weight category.

“This clearly allows the Landmark consignment to utilise additional space requirements as required to ensure the highest possible animal welfare outcome and comfort.” He said for a consignment of this size the cows would typically come from several hundred farms.

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