IN an extension of the work Australia is doing in the Middle East in terms of improving animal welfare practices, nine of the Middle East's major importers of sheep and cattle recently toured Australian livestock facilities.
The importers, who are based in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, travelled throughout New South Wales, Victoria and WA on the 10 day tour.
Collectively these importers represent over three quarters of the live sheep, or approximately 2.75 million head, exported to the region.
Meat and Livestock Australia/Livecorp Middle East and North Africa livestock services manager Peter Dundon who, along with wife Sharon organised the tour, said the purpose of it was to see Australian livestock production systems and facilities with the aim of taking new ideas back home, specifically to improve efficiency and animal welfare.
"The people on this tour are mainly those that look after sheep and cattle in the feedlots. They are the key decision makers that determine how our livestock are fed, housed, transported and processed," Mr Dundon said.
"It has been great for them to see how we breed, grow and market sheep in Australia.
"They have been very impressed with our systems and facilities and it has been a real eye opener for them.
"They are amazed at all the processes involved in delivering fit and healthy sheep to their countries."
The tour was funded by the MLA/LiveCorp Livestock Export Program and Mr Dundon said it had been vital in demonstrating to Australia's valued customers that Australia had the highest standards of livestock exports in the world.
"No other country comes anywhere near us for setting and complying with standards that are designed to ensure the health and welfare status of our livestock," he said.
"Some of the major differences between Australia and the Middle East include our pasture based systems versus their predominantly feedlot systems and rainfall much of the Gulf has around two to three inches per year that falls on only 12 days, so it's very dry.
"Our livestock are worth a lot of money and our Middle East trading partners are committed to ensuring they have access to good quality food and water, plenty of shade and that they are handled and transported properly, in accordance with international standards."