Call for rethink on livestock shipping heat stress model

Zach RelphCountryman
The Wellard-owned MV Ocean Drover.
Camera IconThe Wellard-owned MV Ocean Drover. Credit: WA news

A WA livestock carrier says a controversial proposed heat-stress model for voyages must be reassessed, after delivering more than 56,000 sheep to the Middle East with a 99.9 per cent voyage success rate.

Wellard executive chairman John Klepec confirmed yesterday the company’s MV Ocean Drover arrived in Kuwait and United Arab Emirates in early June with 62 mortalities among the 56,915 sheep shipped.

It marked a mortality total of 0.11 per cent aboard the Wellard-owned carrier, chartered by Perth-based exporter Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading for the journey, after it departed Fremantle Port on May 26.

Despite the low mortality, the vessel — the last live-sheep shipment from WA before the three-month northern summer moratorium — would have remained docked if touted livestock exporting rules were enforced.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


A wet bulb temperature limit — a measurement of heat and humidity combined — of 28C is set to be applied to live-sheep journeys bound for the Middle East to promote animal welfare during livestock sea travel.

The reform was proposed by an independent technical reference panel in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ draft report into heat-stress risk assessment last December.

Mr Klepec said the latest MV Ocean Drover voyage would have been banned under the proposal because the 28C wet bulb limit was exceeded on the 8th day of the 15-day voyage when a 34C wet bulb temperature was recorded.

“The success of this voyage, with almost 57,000 sheep on board, demonstrates that modern ships with good ventilation and reduced stocking densities can achieve excellent animal welfare performance, even when hot and/or humid conditions occur,” he said.

“The voyage’s success also casts considerable doubt on whether the unconditional 28C WBT maximum proposed by the Heat Stress Risk Assessment Technical Review Panel, without any consideration of ventilation or temperature fluctuations, is the right figure or model.”

Mr Klepec added Wellard supported improvements to the live-export industry’s heat-stress model, but adopting wet bulb limits without any reference to temperature fluctuations or ventilation performance was flawed.

“The live export industry’s heat stress risk assessment needs to be predictive, objective and scientifically robust, put simply we need to take a sophisticated approach not a sledgehammer to the industry,” he said.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails