Barnaby Joyce had a “rock star reception” in Western Australia, according to the Australian Associated Press news agency.
He told a meeting of more than a thousand farmers that opponents of live sheep exports were "zealots". He seemed to be back in his characteristic robust style.
The live sheep export industry is currently in difficulty after publicity showing the conditions the sheep were transported in to Muslim countries for slaughter during the northern hemisphere summer.
One video released by activists was of a shipment of almost 64,000 sheep from Fremantle to the Middle East in August last year. About 2400 sheep are alleged to have died from heat stress.
In the WA meeting, Mr Joyce said: “What we're up against is like a religion, it's zealotry and they're not going to stop at just the closure of the live sheep industry”.
“These people haven't got a partial religion - they've got an absolute religion. "They want to close the live sheep game and where will they go next?
"Live cattle. And then it's going to be the live transport industry."
Mr Joyce has been re-finding his political feet after nearly a year of controversy, including his re-election in New England and the break-up of his marriage in the wake of an affair with one of his assistants.
In Western Australia, local television showed him emerging from the airport arrivals area holding the resultant baby, Sebastian, and then handing him to the new partner, Vikki Campion.
A spokesman for Mr Joyce said: “The trip is to attend a public meeting on live export on personal invitation from the Western Australian Farmers Federation.
“All travel is within the parliamentary travel framework which allows each sitting member 10 trips outside the electorate each year for official business”.
The issue is highly contentious in Mr Joyce’s own territory, with its dependence on the sheep industry. An appearance on pro-export platforms might serve him well at home.
At a recent nationals AGM in Glen Innes, the view was expressed that the opposition to live exports was “knee jerk”.
Mr Joyce told AAP agency that he was disgusted with the footage of the animals during the transportation to the Middle East.
"Everybody was but let's remember, don't use the exceptional and make it the generality. More than 99.5 per cent walk off the ship alright."
"When you've got an event like this, it's never going to be the same again.
"You've got to do something about it."