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Former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce has warned the live cattle trade could be shut down if the live sheep export industry is banned.

The Nationals MP is on his way to Western Australia to back sheep farmers threatened by the proposal put forward by Labor and his coalition colleague Sussan Ley.

He fears the next step would be to stop exporting live cattle.

“There are people out there who want to shut the show down and they will send us to hell in a handbasket,” Mr Joyce said in an online video on Thursday.

“I want to make sure that we don’t become part of a culture that shuts things down.

“Somebody somewhere has got to be putting something on a boat and sending it in the other direction.

“Live sheep producers, live cattle producers, coal miners, iron ore miners – we’ve got to stand behind them. Otherwise, we just won’t have an economy.”

Mr Joyce is on Friday attending a WAFarmers public meeting in Katanning, where farmers will be asked to describe how the current industry crisis has affected their businesses and recommend ways to strengthen the sector to secure its future.

Vigorous debate is certain, with WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan addressing the crowd.

Ms MacTiernan has been heavily criticised by the industry for seeking to end the northern hemisphere live sheep trade and urging exporters to ship more locally slaughtered, chilled meat.

Emanuel Exports, which has had its licence suspended, has so far resisted her call, leaving about 60,000 sheep in limbo in a Perth feedlot.

Nationals WA leader Mia Davies said the meeting was about the industry plotting a pathway forward.

“We need cool heads, we need to set aside egos and politics and work together,” Ms Davies told Sky News on Thursday.

She said the live export trade had improved animal welfare standards over time and shutting it down was not an option.

“Anyone who hears that message coming from a federal Labor Party would be very nervous,” Ms Davies said.

After Emanuel Exports’ ill-fated Awassi Express journey in August, on which thousands of sheep died in extreme heat, stocking densities were slashed by 28 per cent.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association WA president Tony Seabrook says that’s a de facto ban of the northern hemisphere summer trade because it is unprofitable.