A ship capable of holding 4000 cattle is docking at Napier Port to take a shipment to China for breeding.

The Gudali Express will dock at 5pm on Monday and will depart on Tuesday.

Hawke's Bay Today was not able to confirm how many cattle would be loaded on to the ship, which was purpose-built in 2016, or where in New Zealand they would be coming from.

A spokesperson from Napier Port told Hawke's Bay Today the arrival of the ship was a matter for the Ministry for Primary Industries.

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An MPI spokesperson said the Singapore-flagged vessel was docking for the purpose of live export of cattle.

"The export has met all regulatory requirements."

New Zealand routinely exports breeding cattle to China, shipping 27,000 in 2017, but the process has earned the ire of animal rights activists in recent years.

Safe (Save Animals From Exploitation) spokeswoman Marianne Macdonald said live shipments were always distressing for the animals involved.

"Animals transported on live export ships can suffer extreme stress. The conditions are often cramped, and the high stocking densities will sometimes result in animal deaths by crushing or suffocation.

"The movement of live export ships as they sail, especially when sailing through rough seas, causes significant stress to animals. Animals can be thrown about the holding pens, resulting in lesions and broken bones."

MacDonald said New Zealand banned live export for slaughter as a result of public outrage after 5000 sheep died on an Australian shipment bound for Saudi Arabia. That was nearly 15 years ago.

"This shipment into Napier shows we are still accepting ships with live animals to dock in our country. It's time we tighten the law, end the suffering and ban all live shipments of animals."

Federated Farmers president Jim Galloway said he hadn't heard about the shipment.

Galloway said cattle taken from Hawke's Bay were generally aggregated beforehand on one to two farms to get used to the feed on board.