DESPITE animal welfare groups' continual attacks on the live exports industry, the trade remains strong.
Predictions have forecast 4.5 million head of sheep (an 8pc increase) and 600,000 head of cattle (a 5pc increase) will be exported from Australia in 2006.
Meanwhile, the world's largest livestock vessel, the Deneb Prima, has made its maiden voyage under its new owner Siba Ships.
The Deneb Prima docked in Fremantle last week to load on board about 6200 head of cattle.
The live export vessel, which is 50pc bigger than the Becrux, had arrived directly from Broome, where about 4000 head of cattle were loaded.
Also on board were a few sheep and goats.
After leaving Fremantle last Wednesday, the Deneb Prima was bound for Darwin for the final loading before sailing to its export destinations of Indonesia and Malaysia.
The boycott on Australian products by the Indonesian Importers' Association (IIA) recently will not impact on the cattle unloaded in Jakarta.
Exports to Indonesia remain steady, with 27,117 head of cattle exported in January, valued at $17 million.
In the same month Australia exported 5455 head of cattle to Malaysia - compared with none in January 2005 - valued at $820,000.
The 20-day voyage to Indonesia and Malaysia is expected to be one of many by the Deneb Prima, which was named the Rodolfo Mata when it was owned by Pan United.
According to Wellards manager and veterinarian David Jarvie, there is nothing better in the way of livestock carriers than the Becrux (also owned by Siba Ships), but the Deneb Prima certainly has capacity in her favour.
At full capacity (depending on weight) the Deneb Prima can carry 28,000 head of cattle and 130,000 head of sheep.
Deneb master Antonio Tosques - formerly the master on the Becrux - said although there was no denying the Deneb was huge, nothing was better than the luxury of the Becrux for crew and stock.
Mr Jarvie said when converting a ship such as the Deneb, compromises always had to be made.
As the Becrux was constructed from scratch, it was able to be built around the needs of the animals - unlike the difficulties involved with vessel conversion.
Mr Jarvie is responsible for managing the feed on board the vessel, which includes 3800t of fodder.
"On board, food is delivered to a number of points on deck and is then fed out manually," Mr Jarvie said.
"Chaff is also kept on board for the stock that don't like the feed pellets."
Mr Jarvie's sole responsibility is to manage the feed because anything vet-related would be a conflict of interest because of Wellards' role in the voyage.
Independent vets and vets from Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) are responsible for checking the animals that board the vessel and AQIS supervises the entire loading process.
Mr Jarvie said everything looked primed for the Deneb's first voyage under Siba, and the culture mix of crew on board made for an efficient team.
The team is made up of an Italian master, Ukrainian officers, a Filipino crew and seven Australian stockmen.