The Fremantle Port, south of Perth, is busy with some of the largest livestock vessels in the world loading stock for markets preparing for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
But the trade to certain international markets is not expected to continue. The movement of livestock to Saudi Arabi is expected to come to a stop for the time being as a result of Australia's new animal welfare standards.
A shipment of Australian sheep and cattle, now on its way to Saudi Arabia, is expected to be the last shipment of Australian livestock to this market until next year.
John Edwards is the Chairman of the WA Livestock Exporters Association and he's also the export manager of Al Jabri, the Australian operations arm of Suleiman Al Jabri, a Saudi owned sheep and cattle importer.
John Edwards says Saudi Arabia will not be ESCAS compliant by the due date which means the market will be off limits to Australian exporters until it is compliant.
ESCAS is the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, which was put in place by the Australian Government to improve animal welfare safeguards for the livestock export trade.
John Edwards was at the Fremantle Port as the MV Nada was being loaded.
He said the Nada is only on its second voyage and will arrive in Saudi just before the ESCAS due date.
"It'll arrive in Saudi Arabia before the end of the month and tranche two markets. (They) are all required to be compliant by the first of September and that includes Saudi Arabia."
"ESCAS has a long way to go in Saudi Arabia. We are still negotiating with the Australian Government in respect to some issues that exist internally with the Saudi Government over issues surrounding ESCAS."
"I would have as a guess that we won't see markets or importers ESCAS compliant in Saudi until the new year and possibly some way into the new year, unfortunately"
"All of the companies that have been trading in livestock to Saudi Arabia, some of them for 30 and 40 years now, have very good facilities, they have very good feedlots, very good transport systems. We acknowledge that there is a way to go with abattoirs in Saudi Arabia and that is the prime incentive to deliver ESCAS into that market."
"Historically you can look at trade figures between Saudi and Australia, it wasn't that many years ago it was our largest sheep market and was certainly proving to be one of the largest cattle markets primarily a bull market. So it offered northern Western Australian producers great opportunities."
"Going forward I think it is a market that holds the greatest potential for Australian sheep producers and cattle producers. It's a huge market place in terms of its overall livestock requirements. We as Australia supply a part of those but we have certainly got the opportunity to regain increased market share there."
Wellard plans to invest in an intergrated supply chain within Saudi Arabia
The Wellard Group is one of Australia's biggest livestock exporters and has been exporting livestock from Fremantle for 33 years.
In 2010 the company exported 635,000 sheep and 220,000 cattle to markets around the world.
Steve Meerwald, the Executive Director of the Wellard Group says the Saudi Arabia livestock export market is unique and some aspects of that market are still coming to terms with the animal welfare safeguards for the livestock export trade.
"The markets that are processing markets where they import, generally import a large enterprise, has a feedlotting exercise and then is processing within their own markets. There are a lot of those markets, they are right up to speed with it. They had trouble coming to grips with what they needed to do but because they're final users as well it's actually easier to control."
"The markets that are trading markets where importers import livestock into a feedlot and then market them through other cities and through livestock silks, or livestock markets, and Saudi is the biggest of those markets, are really struggling to understand what needs to be done."
"The importer doesn't control the slaughtering process. They sell to a middle man, who might sell to another middle man, who might sell to another middle man and the livestock move through a whole series of different ownership before being processed through a municipal slaughterhouse that certainly we don't have control of, nor does the importer."
"That's really been the challenge in Saudi and I think it's still going to be a long time before a simple system where livestock are imported into a closed loop system where they're held in a feedlot and then processed can be put in place in that market."
"There are a few people looking at the future. Hopefully we'll be able to be more competitive in the future and if you go back a lot further than 2006 and go back to into the late 1980's there was a market for us for 3.5 million sheep, so every market is an important market."
"We're certainly working on options to have an integrated supply chain within Saudi because we have our own business within Saudi as well. It was a trading business, it won't be under ESCAS, it will need to be an integrated business so it's something that we're looking at and it will be the focus of some downstream investment for our business in the very near future."
Animal welfare and ship life on the world's largest livestock carrier
The most recent Wellard vessel to depart Fremantle for the Persian Gulf was the MV Ocean Drover.
The Ocean Drover is the world's largest, purpose-built livestock carrier.
At capacity it can transport 75,000 sheep or 18,000 cattle.
The Ocean Drover recently left Fremantle Port loaded with 75,000 sheep sourced from all over Western Australia, from as far north as Carnarvon and all the way south, almost to the South Australian border.
The vessel has nine decks, four open and five closed decks below.
Rob MacPherson is an independent livestock inspector.
His role is to inspect the sheep as they go on board.
"We've got a team of inspectors that watch the animals individually go on board."
"Sort of things that we're looking for is lameness, anything we deem that won't be able to be fit enough to make the voyage, things like communicable diseases like scabby mouth, eye problems and that's basically the main sort of conditions."
"Out of the 70,000 you'd probably get in the order 300 to 500 that would be the typical sort of number that we'd send back."
Nick Hill is the head stockman for the Ocean Drover and he has a multitude of responsibilities on the vessel.
"Our role is basically to maintain the health and welfare of the animals on board, monitoring the crew, the Filipino crew that we have on board, ensuring that they've got feeding rosters in place, working alongside with the vets and fellow stockmen that we have on board to ensure the voyage is successful and all the animals make it to the other end, our market, which is the Middle East."
He says he has no trouble with seasickness.
"The vessels are very big and in the scheme of things you really don't feel the sea. It's a big enough vessel to encounter any seas and rather pleasant to tour on."
He especially likes the mulitcultural meals on offer.
"With the Filipinos and the different ethnic groups on board there's a lot of rice involved, a lot of curries, I don't mind that type of thing so yeah, fish, curry, rice, staple diet."
By Belinda Varischetti, ABC Rural