ALMOST 2.5 million sheep, goats and cattle have been exported from Australia as part of the live animal trade this year.
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry figures show the trade is worth $1 billion annually to the country's economy and creates about 10,000 jobs in regional Australia.
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Almost two million Australian sheep had been exported for feeder and slaughter purposes by October 31 this year, down 12.5 per cent on the corresponding period last year.
Live cattle exports numbered 451,890 - almost 10 per cent less - while live goats increased 51 per cent to 54,661 head.
Fifteen countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East make up 99 per cent of Australia's livestock markets, among them Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive Alison Penfold said farmers nationwide were wholly or partially dependent on live trade for income.
She said the trade allowed Australia to "deliver on the food security needs of many around the world", with the boxed-meat trade not suitable for some overseas markets.
"In Indonesia the bulk of live exports go into the wet market trade which is unrefrigerated," Ms Penfold said. "For many (it's) their only source of meat."
She said animal welfare was at the front of exporters' minds and key to the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, which requires compliance with international animal-welfare standards through to the point of processing.
But animal welfare in live exports took another hit last week amid allegations Australian cattle were killed outside an accredited abattoir in Indonesia.
Animals Australia lodged a complaint with DAFF after its local investigator allegedly saw the cattle being slaughtered using traditional roping methods in West Java in September.
DAFF is investigating the complaint.
Animals Australia's Lisa Chalk said the incident was another example of the failure of ESCAS.
"You cannot send animals to countries where they are going to be killed in a way that is not in line with Australia's guidelines," she said.