LIFE onboard a livestock export vessel was brought into focus at the LIVEXchange 2017 conference in Perth recently.
A panel discussion consisting of two Australian Government-accredited veterinarians Renee Willis and Holly Ludeman, along with stockmen Richard Leitch and Ben Giblett, was insightful and helpful in the overall context of the conference on the live export trade.
Mediated by RSPCA New South Wales chief executive Steve Coleman, who wasted no time in posing questions of concern, the panel openly explained why they were attracted to working on vessels and the satisfaction they had in seeing a job well done.
All panellists expressed a love of working with animals and Mr Leitch was quick to point out that the welfare of animals onboard a livestock vessel was in everyone’s interest and the top priority when at sea.
He said the standard of livestock vessels had improved dramatically over the years – providing greater comfort and reducing the stress and impacts of ocean going on the animals.
The improvement in standards has seen a less than one per cent mortality rate for both sheep and cattle onboard export vessels in 2016.
Mr Leitch said when onboard, his daily schedule consisted of rising at 5.30am and attending a meeting with duty staff before checking and feeding the livestock.
After breakfast at about 8am he would continue working throughout the day – only stopping for meal breaks – liaising with various staff and crew to deal with issues and complete a set of tasks.
His day would end about 9:30-10:30pm after ensuring the stock were prepared and bedded for the night.
Mr Leitch said stockmen only travelled with the stock one way and they would catch a flight home after ensuring the animals made it to their destination in as good a condition as possible.
“They are pretty full on days, but that’s the job,” Mr Leitch said.
“There’s nothing else to do anyway.
“You don’t have much spare time – you just work and sleep and do the same thing the next day until the job is done.”
If the livestock were not prepared well enough in advance of the voyage they would be “playing catch up” with them the whole way, making sure the animals were an acceptable weight and condition for the buyers on delivery.
The return trip gave the ship’s crew time to prepare the vessel for its next intake of animals which was easier without the additional presence of stockmen who no longer needed to be onboard.