Speaking at the ICSA's AGM in Dublin last week, the minister said that his officials were working hard on getting a boat approved for live exports in January or February.
" Libya is the most likely destination but there are real welfare issues around this.
"It's no joke crossing the Bay of Biscay in January and the last thing I want is reports of cattle breaking legs on their journey to wherever," said Mr Coveney.
He added that the live shipping of cattle was not his preferred way of dealing with Irish cattle because of the loss of added value and jobs by not processing them here.
"However, if that's the way to keep our factories honest, so be it," he said.
The news will be welcomed by farmers, whose fears centre on the increased numbers of cattle that are expected to come on stream in the second half of 2013.
However, problems remain to be sorted. Libya is very unstable since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi and exporters will require payment upfront for all cattle.
The North African state was a major outlet for Irish live cattle in the 1980s and early 1990s until trade closed as a result of the BSE crisis.
Meanwhile, IFA president John Bryan has written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny to highlight the concerns of Irish farmers over increases in the volume of beef imports into Europe from the current EU/Canadian trade negotiations.
"The talks are progressing rapidly and involve access for substantial volumes of beef imports, which would seriously damage the European beef market and in turn the important €2bn Irish beef and livestock sector," said Mr Bryan.
The IFA has also called on Mr Coveney to raise the important issue with EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos.
The IFA fears Canada will target Europe with 'high value steak cuts'.
Out of the total EU beef market of about 8m tonnes, high value steak cuts account for only 560,000t.
While they make up a relatively small part of the volume of the overall carcase, they can account for up to 40pc of the value. "Therefore, any increase in steak imports would have a negative impact on prices," said Mr Bryan.