WA producers upbeat about live sheep resumption

Zach RelphCountryman
Kweda farmers Jeff and Lear Edwards at Fremantle Port on Sunday.
Camera IconKweda farmers Jeff and Lear Edwards at Fremantle Port on Sunday. Credit: Cally Dupe

Improving the live sheep trade’s animal welfare and husbandry starts on-farm, according to a Wheatbelt farmer upbeat about the industry’s future.

Kweda sheep producers Jeff and Lear Edwards toured the Al Messilah, alongside fellow farmers and students, at Fremantle Port on Sunday ahead of the live sheep shipping industry’s resumption.

The Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading Company-owned livestock carrier departed on Monday, bound for Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, with 54,390 sheep and 467 cattle.

It marked the first live sheep voyage to leave Australia since the three-month northern hemisphere moratorium came in on June 1.

Mr and Mrs Edwards, who oversee the family’s grain-sheep farm near small Wheatbelt town Kweda, about 45km east of Brookton, with daughter Chloe, shipped about 3000 sheep earlier this year before the shipping halt.

Sheep aboard the Al Messilah at Fremantle Port on Sunday.
Camera IconSheep aboard the Al Messilah at Fremantle Port on Sunday. Credit: Cally Dupe

The second-generation farmer has about 6300 breeding ewes, plus lambs, and nearly 3000 ewe hoggets, after sending 200 head on this week’s Al Messilah voyage.

“We got about 3000 on to the boats early,” Mr Edwards said.

“If we hadn’t been able to ship earlier this year and the boats didn’t resume, we would have been in a pretty sticky situation leading into the summer.”

Before the Al Messilah set sail, The Sheep Collective held two tours aboard the vessel on Sunday as part of its attempt to improve industry transparency.

Mr Edwards praised the tours, lauding the veterinarians set to travel aboard the Al Messilah, while highlighting farmers’ important role along the supply chain.

“It really reassured to us that as producers, you really have to do everything right,” he said.

Sheep eating during Sunday’s tour of the Al Messilah vessel at Fremantle Port.
Camera IconSheep eating during Sunday’s tour of the Al Messilah vessel at Fremantle Port. Credit: Cally Dupe

“Farmers have to be responsible, have good facilities, good sheep handling and good husbandry, that’s where it starts.

“I think every producer, at some point, should do the vessel tour — it’s well worth it and we were impressed.”

The Sheep Collective co-founder Holly Ludeman, also the corporate governance officer at Emmanuel Exports, said providing farmers with an improved understanding of the live trade was important.

“It is no longer just a trans-action — producers want to see the supply chain and understand it more,” she said.

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

Sign up for our emails