Mass sheep death on horror voyage

The live export industry is in crisis amid revelations thousands of sheep from farms in WA and the eastern States died in extreme heat during a horror voyage to the Middle East on a ship which was back in Fremantle loading animals in 40C conditions last weekend.

The death of about 4000 sheep exported by Livestock Shipping Services on the Bader 3 has sparked calls for a major overhaul of the live animal trade.

Federal authorities are investigating the deaths, which occurred about five months ago but were not made public. It is believed the sheep, loaded in WA's winter, died of heat stress over a short period as summer temperatures in the Gulf soared.

Live exporters and livestock producers are already bracing for the fallout from multiple investigations into alleged breaches of animal welfare regulations.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is expected to release a raft of long-awaited findings as early as today.

A number of investigations involve Jordanian-owned LSS, which is based in Perth.

LSS general manager Garry Robinson confirmed yesterday there had been an incident on the Bader 3 in August.

"The incident was unusual and unexpected. It was a normal shipment but an abnormal environmental period," he said.

Mr Robinson defended the loading of the Bader 3 last weekend, saying DAFF and State officials had monitored the loading.

"We monitored the temperature hourly at the feedlot, on the trucks, at port and on the ship," he said. "There was a management plan in place and that is part of the normal process."

DAFF investigates shipments where the on-board mortality rate is above 2 per cent for sheep and 0.5 per cent for cattle. The mortality rate on the Bader 3 shipment was about 5 per cent.

The overall mortality rate for 2.2 million sheep exported in 2012 was 0.88 per cent. Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan yesterday called on the Federal Government to introduce heavy fines for exporters who breached animal welfare standards and the appointment of an independent watchdog to oversee the industry.

Ms MacTiernan said that under existing regulations DAFF could only punish exporters by removing export licences and it appeared unwilling to take such strong action.

"It is time for a structured regime of fines that DAFF is prepared to implement," she said. "Removing export licences is such a big-ticket move it is never enforced."

Ms MacTiernan said the heat risk assessment model used by DAFF was "totally inadequate" and had been heavily criticised by leading veterinarians. Deadly journey 4000 The number of sheep believed to have died of heat stress on the Bader 3.