Animal welfare is essential for sustainable and profitable cattle production. It is also a legal responsibility.
The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle (PDF, 1.25MB), encourages humane management practices, sets minimum standards of treatment of cattle, and informs people in charge of cattle of their responsibilities.
People responsible for cattle welfare are whoever is in charge of cattle throughout the supply chain and includes: owners; representatives of owners; property staff; contractors; transport workers; saleyard and abattoir staff; spelling establishment operators and processors.
Whether cattle are being produced through broad acre grazing or in intensive feedlots, owners/managers have a duty of care to ensure that the animals basic needs (based on the Five freedoms for animals RSPCA) are met. They are responsible for providing:
- sufficient food and water
- appropriate living conditions
- an opportunity for cattle to display normal behavioural patterns
- protection from injury or disease and treatment if required
- appropriate handling.
Information available about key aspects of cattle welfare includes:
How an animal is handled has a major impact on their welfare and behaviour. The FutureBeef page, Handling cattle, provides an overview of some basic cattle handling techniques, focussing on using the animal’s natural behaviours and responses to pressure.
Transporting animals can be a stressful experience. However, as responsible cattle handlers, there are a number of tasks, techniques and strategies that are used to minimise the impact this has on their wellbeing. Melinda Leeds, beef producer from Bundarra Farming Company (WA), explains the techniques she uses, and what good practices mean to her.
Here are some resources from state, territory and federal government departments and Meat & Livestock Australia:
- Is it fit to load: a national guide to the selection of animals fit to transport (PDF, 4 MB), Meat & Livestock Australia
- Animal Welfare: Livestock, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (WA)
- Livestock welfare and land transport standards, Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (NT)
- Guidelines for feeding travelling cattle, Biosecurity Queensland
- Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines – land transport of livestock, Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines
The welfare of animals during live export is of paramount importance. The following resources highlight the efforts made to ensure high standards of animal welfare are maintained throughout the beef supply chain.
Extended dry seasons
Sometimes, pasture in the paddock doesn’t grow as quickly as anticipated, or as much as anticipated. It is at these times that graziers will need to revise their feed reserves and make decisions as to whether they reduce the number of livestock they carry, or purchase additional feed to ensure the health and welfare of the animals within their care is maintained. This publication, Managing cattle in dry conditions: Pastoralists’ options and animal welfare responsibilities (PDF, 684KB), from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (WA), outlines the responsibilities of pastoralists during dry times.
The web page, Welfare of drought-affected livestock, from Biosecurity Queensland, outlines a grazier’s duty of care, potential management options that will reduce an animal’s dietary requirements (such as early weaning), and determining adequate food supply.
The sudden onset of natural disasters such as flooding, bushfires and cyclones can severely impact the welfare of both people and animals. The best mitigation strategy is to have a plan. This page, Animal welfare in natural disasters, from Biosecurity Queensland, outlines the factors that need to be taken into consideration.
Specific information about national, state and territory government animal welfare legislation can be found at:
- Northern livestock transporters course, Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (NT)
- National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme and Quality Assurance workshops, Australian Lot Feeders’ Association
- Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association
- Beef industry newsletters and magazines
- Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland
- Australian Livestock Export Corporation Limited
- PestSmart Connect
- Wild dog information and management guidelines, Biosecurity Queensland
- Health and disease
- Grazing land management