Stock Handling & Animal Welfare

States endorse new cattle welfare rules

James Nason, 10/02/2016

grassfed cattle southern AngusNew legally-enforceable rules designed to protect the welfare of cattle and sheep on Australian farms could soon be in place nationally following their endorsement by all State agriculture ministers.

For the past eight years Animal Health Australia (AHA) has been overseeing the development of new, nationally consistent standards and guidelines for the welfare of sheep and cattle in Australia.

The process has involved extensive industry and community consultation and negotiation between industry representative bodies, animal welfare groups and Government agencies (see timeline below right).

The outcome of that process was the production of draft, harmonised national standards and guidelines for cattle and sheep welfare, which were presented to the Federal and State agriculture ministers back in September 2014.

There had been little news on the progress of the new policy framework until late last month when State and Territory Governments agreed to the new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.

Cattle-Timeline-150714-723x1024

Timeline: The development of welfare standards and guidelines for cattle. Click on the image to view in larger format.

Responsibility for protecting animal welfare rests with the States and requirements can vary significantly from one State to the next.

Consider, for example, the different approaches taken by different states to cattle branding.

In Queensland it is compulsory to brand cattle before they are sold. In Victoria branding is not only not compulsory, but also “not encouraged”. Use of a firebrand in Victoria can leave the owner open to prosecution if it is deemed that non painful alternative methods were available (as outlined in this earlier Beef Central article).

The framework includes a long list of standards which are intended to be introduced into law in each State to provide a nationally consistent set of rules from one State to the next (the final standards as endorsed by State ministers are listed further below).

Supporting the standards are numerous guidelines. These are not legally-enforceable regulations but recommendations that people in the care of livestock are expected to follow.

Before consistent legislation and enforcement across Australia can be achieved, each State must still formally enshrine the new framework in their own State legislation.

The process of implementing the new standards and guidelines will vary from State to State, but the recent endorsement by all State agriculture ministers is seen as a strong step towards a national framework soon becoming a reality.

Animal Health Australia said it expects to be in a position to be able to provide more information on the endorsement process and the final framework document soon.

Cattle Council of Australia has been involved in the negotiations from the outset.

“Cattle Council understands the importance of our industry demonstrating its welfare credentials,” CEO Jed Matz told Beef Central.

“We have been very closely engaged with these cattle standards and have been very active in making sure these standards are practical and work for all production systems.”

He said there was nothing “crazy or new” in the standards or guidelines.

“It just gives people more of an indication about what is acceptable and what is not, for new entrants into the industry and for those who may not have a background in the industry and are looking at what we do, they can now see standards are there for people to operate against.

“They are based on the best available science, and have been endorsed not just by the industry but also welfare groups.”

Mr Matz said CCA had spent a lot of time and effort making sure grassfed cattle producers were represented in the negotiations and that their voice was heard.

Listed below are the specific standards for cattle.

To view the full version of the document containing all standards and guidelines and background information for cattle click here: http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/cattle/ and for sheep click here: http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/sheep/

 

The Australian Animal Welfare STANDARDS for Cattle:

(These standards are expected to become legally enforceable under State legislation. The supporting guidelines for these standards can be found in the full document at link above)

 

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • A person must take reasonable actions to ensure the welfare of cattle under their care.

FEED AND WATER:

  • A person must ensure cattle have reasonable access to adequate and appropriate feed and water.

RISK MANAGEMENT OF EXTREME WEATHER, NATURAL DISASTERS, DISEASE, INJURY AND PREDATION:

  • A person in charge must take reasonable action to ensure the welfare of cattle from threats including extremes of weather, drought, fire, floods, disease, injury and predation;
  • A person in charge must ensure the inspection of cattle at intervals, and a level, appropriate to the production system and the risk of the welfare of cattle;
  • A person in charge much ensure appropriate treatment for sick, injured or disease cattle at the first opportunity.

FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT:

  • A person in charge must take reasonable actions in the construction, maintenance and operation of facilities and equipment to ensure the welfare of cattle.

HANDLING AND MANAGEMENT:

  • A person must handle cattle in a reasonable manner.
  • A person handling cattle must not:
    • lift cattle off the ground by only the head, ears, horns, neck or tail unless in an emergency; or
    • drop cattle except to land and stand on their feet; or
    • strike, punch, or kick cattle in an unreasonable manner; or
    • drag cattle that are not standing, except in an emergency for the minimum distance to allow safe handling, lifting, treatment or humane killing, or
    • deliberately dislocate or break the tail of cattle, or
    • use metal pellets to wound cattle as an aid for mustering.
  • A person must not drive cattle to the point of collapse.
  • A person must consider the welfare of cattle when using an electric prodder, and must not use it:
    • on genital, anal or udder areas of cattle
    • on facial areas, unless cattle welfare is at risk; or
    • on cattle that are unable to move away; or
    • in an unreasonable manner on cattle.
  • A person in charge of a dog must have the dog under effective control at all times during the handling of cattle.
  • A person in charge of a dog must ensure a dog is muzzled when moving calves less than 30 days old that are without cows.
  • A person in charge must ensure tethered cattle are able to exercise daily.

Electro-immobilisation:

  • A person must only use electro-immobilisation on cattle if:
    • the device is approved for use in the jurisdiction; and
    • the cattle are more than six months old; and
    • the operator is trained or it is done under direct supervision of a veterinarian or a trained person; and
    • Alternative restraining methods are not adequate to hold cattle sufficiently for the procedure being performed.
  • A person must not use electro-immobilisation on cattle as an alternative to pain relief.

Identification:

  • A person must use the most appropriate and least painful method to identify cattle that is applicable to the jurisdiction and the production system
  • A person must not place a permanent brand on the head of cattle

CASTRATION, DEHORNING AND SPAYING:

  • A person castrating or dehorning cattle must have the relevant knowledge, experience and skills, or be under the direct supervision of a person who has the relevant knowledge, experience and skills

Castration:

  • A person in charge must ensure the appropriate pain relief when castrating cattle unless cattle are
    • less than six month old; or
    • less than 12 months old if at their first yarding and where the later age is approved in the jurisdiction
  • A person must use the appropriate tools and methods to castrate cattle

Disbudding and dehorning:

  • A person in charge must ensure the use of appropriate pain relief when dehorning cattle unless cattle are:
    • less than six month old; or
    • less than 12 months old if at their first yarding and where the later age is approved in the jurisdiction
  • A person must consider the welfare of the calf when using caustic chemicals for disbudding the calf, and must only use it if the calf:
    • is less than fourteen days old; and
    • can be segregated from its mother for four hours after treatment; and
    • can be kept dry for 12 hours after treatment; and
    • is not wet
  • A person must use appropriate tools and methods to dehorn cattle and disbud calves.

Spaying:

  • A person spaying a cow must be veterinarian or, if permitted in the jurisdiction, be accredited or be under the direct supervision of a veterinarian or a person who is accredited.
  • A person in charge must ensure the use of appropriate pain relief when performing the flank approach for spaying or webbing of cattle
  • A person must not use the vaginal spreaders to spay small or immature cattle.

BREEDING MANAGEMENT:

  • A person performing artificial breeding procedures on cattle must have the relevant knowledge, experience and skills, or be under the direct supervision of a person who has the relevant knowledge, experience and skills.
  • A person performing artificial breeding procedures on cattle must take reasonable actions to minimise pain, distress or injury.
  • A person in charge must ensure the inspection of calving cattle at intervals appropriate to the production system and the level of risk to the welfare of cattle.
  • A person in charge must ensure calving induction is done under veterinary advice.
  • A person in charge must ensure that induced calves receive adequate colostrum or be humanely killed at the first reasonable opportunity, and before they are 12 hours old.

CALF-REARING SYSTEMS:

  • A person in charge must ensure the feeding and inspection of calves in calf rearing systems are performed daily.
  • A person in charge must ensure that calves housed in pens can turn around, lie down and fully stretch their limbs.
  • A person in charge must ensure sufficient iron in the diet to prevent anaemia in calves in veal production systems.
  • A person in charge must not allow the faeces and urine of calves housed in indoor systems to accumulate to the stage that compromises calf health and welfare.

DAIRY MANAGEMENT:

  • A person in charge must ensure the daily inspection of lactating dairy cows.
  • A person in charge must implement appropriate actions to minimise heat stress of cattle.
  • A person must tail dock cattle only on veterinary advice and only to treat injury or disease.
  • A person in charge must ensure dairy cattle that are kept on feed pads for extended periods have access to a well-drained area for resting.

BEEF FEEDLOTS:

  • A person in charge must ensure a minimum area of 9 m2 per Standard Cattle Unit for cattle held in external pens.
  • A person in charge must ensure that the diet composition and quantities fed are recorded, and that records are maintained for the duration of the feeding period of each group of cattle.
  • A person in charge must ensure feed is available daily to cattle in the beef feedlot.
  • A person in charge must do a risk assessment each year for the heat load risk at the feedlot, 
and implement appropriate actions to manage ongoing heat load risk.
  • A person in charge must have a documented Excessive Heat Load Action Plan, and must 
implement appropriate actions in the event of a heat load emergency.
  • A person in charge must have a documented contingency plan in case of failure of feed or water supply, and must implement appropriate actions in the event of feed or water supply failure.
  • A person in charge must have a documented contingency plan in case of an emergency animal disease, and must implement appropriate actions in the event of an emergency animal disease.
  • A person in charge must ensure the daily inspection of all cattle within the feedlot.
  • A person in charge must ensure the appropriate management of calves born in the feed 
yards, to ensure the welfare of the calves.
  • A person in charge must ensure the cleaning of feed yards and maintenance of surfaces on a planned basis, to ensure that pen surfaces can drain freely.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Jodi Wruck, 02/04/2018

    When will QLD get with the times and stop making branding of Cattle compulsory. We have NLIS, and truly branding does not achieve anything for small producers anymore. It does not stop stock being stolen, they can be modified or ignored and a lot of brands are not really readable. If large producers need to brand to prove ownership of wandering stock on their huge allotments, then let them continue, but why make it compulsory for everyone. It is just an extra expense in registrations and painful treatment for cattle that is not necessary in today’s society.

  2. Adrian Prior, 11/02/2016

    Is this for on-farm only or right across the whole path way (including abattoirs)?

    Hi Adrian, we checked with Animal Health Australia to confirm this, and the answer is that these standards and guidelines apply just to farms and feedlots, with farms ranging from one head (peri-urban/small landholders) through to extensive rangeland operations (thousands of head). Other specific standards and guidelines have been developed for other sectors in the supply chain such as land transport, saleyards and depots and meat processing. Hope this helps to answer your question. Regards, Editor.

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