WHAT an interesting year it has been for the live export industry.
After what had started as a reasonable year just like any other things certainly changed on May 30, 2011.
Families thoughout the country were shown horrific footage of abattoirs in Indonesia of cattle being whipped, kicked and hit on ABC's Four Corners episode A Bloody Business.
The controversial broadcast led to a massive public outcry for the close of the $300 million industry, directed by animal activists groups Animals Australia, RSPCA and GetUp.
And on June 6, they got their wish.
Federal Agricultural Minister Joe Ludwig banned all live cattle exports to Indonesia indefinitely.
The ban left pastoralists and farmers with nowhere to go.
This led to the entire agricultural industry, from exporters, to pastoralists, to students, to producers, coming together as one to fight for the survival of the live export industry.
After protests throughout the country, the month-long battle to get the industry back up and running came to an end, with permits being issued for 180,000 head of cattle on July 7.
But the effect from the ban continued.
The first shipment from Australia wasn't until August 11 and the first shipment from WA wasn't until August 18.
That meant WA's pastoralist went without a shipment to their biggest live cattle market for 73 days.
The next issue following the ban was compensation or assistance to those affected with the Federal Government offering just $25,000 for businesses and pastoralists.
It was a frivilous offer and the industry responded the only way it knows how - working harder.
Since the shipments resumed in August it has been full steam ahead for exporters, who are expecting to send around 410,000 head of cattle to Indonesia by the end of this year.
This year also included some record shipments with Wellard Rural Exports ship, the MV Ocean Shearer, carrying 25,817 head of cattle earlier this month.
The Bill Farmer Review was released on October 21, which outlined the reforms to be undertaken by the industry and also gave the guarantee there would be no rash decisions on the industry until the reforms were complete at the end of 2013.
The review has raised some doubt that live exports may slow in 2012 given the need for countries and exporters to build towards secured supply chains.
WA Live Exporters Association (WALEA) chairman John Edwards said the high Australian dollar and the lack of supply could also cause problems for exporters next year.
"With live sheep exports we have obviously had some tough times with a very volatile Australian dollar in terms of setting up good trading terms with the Middle Eastern customers," Mr Edwards said.
"There has been good numbers shipped to most of the markets we deal with in the Middle East and most of those have had severe pressure on them through competition with places such as Saudi Arabia.
"But the Federal Government's required change on the development of secured supply chains has the potential to significantly slow down live sheep exports to the region next year.
"Our three major importing countries in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, are all tranche one markets and need to be secured as supply chains by March 1, 2012, with all the other markets coming online by September 1.
"As a consequence it has the potential that we could see the live sheep exports come back early next year."
The live export issues continued just two weeks ago with Indonesia announcing a cut to their Australian live cattle imports to 280,000 head of cattle - down from 520,000 in 2010.
Mr Edwards said 2011 had been a challenging year for the live export industry.
"We live with issues post-2010, with video footage in the Middle East, which put pressure on us this year in a number of areas," Mr Edwards said. "A range of factors such as competition, the volatility of the Australian dollar, stock supply in Australia and the high stock prices all impacted the ability of getting numbers into markets."
Mr Edwards said before the live cattle export ban to Indonesia, live cattle exports were running as normal with buoyant trading opportunities to Russia and Turkey for feeder, slaughter and breeding cattle.
He said Egypt had also provided another avenue for the heavy cattle, which were due to be sent to Indonesia and had exceeded the 350kg weight limit.
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) figures at the time of press showed WA had exported 230,172 head of cattle of the 565,654 cattle exported from Australia, as of October 31 this year.
MLA figures also showed at the same time, WA had exported 1,405,507 sheep of Australia's total sheep exports of 2,144,403.