Australia has been an exporter of livestock for well over one hundred years, and the trade has continued to expand in importance and deliver economic benefits to rural communities and the national economy.

Australia’s livestock producers were amongst the nation’s first exporters, with live animal shipments dating back to 1829.

The opening of large cattle stations in the Northern Territory and Kimberley in the 1880s was driven by the potential of exports to Asian markets.

From its earliest days, the industry intended to deliver well-conditioned livestock to foreign markets. From the early 1800s to today, losses of animals in transit mean reduced profits. The desire to improve conditions of transport and to understand the dynamics of successful shipments has underpinned ongoing industry research and guides investment in new ships and on-board infrastructure.

First shipments of cattle to Hong Kong, Jakarta and Singapore
Sheep trade with Kuwait commences wth 2500-head shipment
First feeder/slaughter cattle exported to China
Industry history infographic

Our members

ALEC members include Australian Government licensed livestock exporters by sea and air of feeder, slaughter and breeder sheep, cattle (beef and dairy), goats, buffalo and camels.

Our exporter members account for more than 96 per cent of Australia’s annual livestock export trade. ALEC’s associate members extend through the supply chain, including producers, registered premise operators, ship owners and other businesses involved in the live trade. Regional exporter associations from NT, WA, Queensland and southern Australia are also members of ALEC.

While membership of ALEC is not mandated, all relevant exporters and supply chain participants are encouraged to join.

ALEC works closely with LiveCorp, the service delivery body of the livestock export industry.  Levies paid on the export of livestock are used to fund research and development and programs focused on animal welfare, supply chain improvements and market access.

ALEC is also a member of the National Farmers' Federation and has direct links with peak producer bodies like the Cattle Council of Australia and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia through our membership of the Red Meat Advisory Council.

The Australian Livestock Export Trade

Noted rural author Nigel Austin documented a detailed history of Australia’s livestock export trade in The Australian Livestock Export Trade: From the First Fleet to the World’s Greatest Livestock Breeding Country which can be purchased for $19.95 by emailing