Animal husbandry techniques

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Definition: These techniques include castration, horn removal (dehorning), branding and ear marking. This priority looks at alternatives to aversive practices (e.g. breeding selection for the polled gene) and practical administration of pain relief before carrying out necessary husbandry procedures.

Indicators


The context

The Australian beef industry is strongly committed to best practice animal welfare and wellbeing.

Consumers and the community have ever-increasing expectations around animal welfare. The beef industry recognises the need to continuously improve on its animal welfare practices not only to meet these expectations, but to provide the best possible care for its animals. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also ensures the best quality meat is produced.

Good animal welfare is a legal requirement and any cruelty to animals is a criminal offence. For the industry, these legal standards are a minimum bar that we seek to exceed through ongoing efforts in research, development and adoption.

Beef producers are guided by the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines, which recommend the appropriate animal husbandry techniques that deliver better welfare outcomes for the animal.

Discussions with our stakeholders identified animal husbandry techniques as a priority for industry focus under the Framework’s animal welfare theme. This priority focuses on aversive techniques including castration, horn removal, branding and ear marking. The industry aims to find alternatives to invasive practices (e.g. through genetic selection) and rapidly increase the use of pain management as part of carrying out necessary husbandry procedures.

The industry takes responsibility for ensuring our approach is collaborative and inclusive. While producer consultation remains critical for setting investment priorities, industry is committed to partnerships with researchers and welfare experts to capitalise on cross-sectoral synergies and opportunities for collaboration.

MLA remains an active foundational member of the National Biosecurity Research Development and Extension Strategy (NABRDES) and the National Animal Welfare Research Development and Extension Strategy (NAWRDES). MLA also works closely with other cross-industry initiatives and groups such as the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) and Animal Health Australia (AHA) and collaborates directly with other research corporations and industry bodies.


Industry position

The Australian beef industry:

  • Recognises the five domains or five freedoms of animal welfare as our true north when setting best practice
  • Aspires towards zero fear, zero harm of livestock within our care
  • Recognises that Australian law and other industry standards are the minimum compared with best practice
  • Supports the continuous improvement of animal welfare based on science
  • Does not condone cruelty to livestock within our care
  • Supports the use of pain relief for invasive procedures and aspires to achieve a usage target of 100% by 2025
  • Supports and invests in alternatives to invasive animal procedures
  • Recognises that until suitable and effective arrangements are available, the industry supports practices as identified in the Standards and Guidelines for Cattle
  • Supports the promotion of the benefits of pain relief


What is the data telling us?

The percentage of beef producers regularly using pain relief when undertaking husbandry practices is reported as 15% this year (an 11% increase on 2016 data). This figure is from a 2019 producer survey, in which respondents were asked how frequently they use pain relief to manage pain for a range of husbandry practices. The respondents made up a sample reflective of Australia’s different beef producing regions and herd sizes.

The industry recognises that self-assessment is not an ideal measure. Alternative measures were explored such as pain relief drug sales, but it is not possible to split out their use by species. Self-assessment is currently the best measurement available to the Framework. The SSG is confident that the figure of 15% is not an over-representation and is comfortable to use the available data set for this update.

The percentage of producers selecting for poll gene has also increased, to an estimated 86% of the national herd being polled. In last year’s report, this was reported based on a producer survey. This year, data is courtesy of the Australian Genetics and Breeding Unit at the University of New England (AGBU), the Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association (ACBAR) and Neogen Australasia.


Snapshot of activity

MLA leads the industry's on-farm welfare program that encompasses research, development, adoption, engagement and communication activities. For animal husbandry, MLA has been focusing its efforts on three areas:

  • Replacing invasive procedures with non-invasive ones
  • Increasing the use of pain relief during animal husbandry procedures
  • Improving methods for measuring animal welfare on farm

Replacing invasive procedures

The preferred strategy for best animal welfare outcomes is to replace invasive procedures with stress-free, non-invasive procedures. This replacement strategy has been carried out by the industry through the breeding of polled (hornless) cattle which removes the need to dehorn livestock. Now 86% of cattle are polled. Effort is ongoing to increase these numbers across the industry.

MLA continues to invest in genetic research to improve the identification and breeding of polled cattle. Genetic tools have recently been made available to support breeders in selecting for the gene.

Increasing the use of pain relief during husbandry procedures

Pain relief options for beef cattle have been commercially available for two years in Australia. The principal products available are topical (Tri-Solfen), oral (Buccalgesic) and injectable (Metacam) anaesthetics.

There are many industry projects to increase the use of pain relief. They include a research project into better pain relief solutions, funded through the MLA Donor Company with matching funds from the University of Sydney and 4 Seasons. This project is investigating options for easier administrations of analgesics, the development of long-acting analgesics, and the extension of existing pain relief solutions to other livestock conditions and procedures.

Improving methods for measuring animal welfare on farm

There has been significant investment and focus on better understanding what good welfare is, how it is achieved and how to measure it. A way to objectively measure an animal’s welfare, based on physiological and behavioural parameters, is essential. Tools and technology that allow producers to record welfare will support better outcomes on-farm.

MLA has invested in research projects with the University of Adelaide, SARDI, CSIRO, NSW DPI, the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, Allflex and the Consolidated Pastoral Company to develop objective animal welfare measures, practical ways of measuring animal welfare on-farm and tools to measure welfare in real-time.

Definition: These techniques include castration, horn removal (dehorning), branding and ear marking. This priority looks at alternatives to aversive practices (e.g. breeding selection for the polled gene) and practical administration of pain relief before carrying out necessary husbandry procedures.

Indicators


The context

The Australian beef industry is strongly committed to best practice animal welfare and wellbeing.

Consumers and the community have ever-increasing expectations around animal welfare. The beef industry recognises the need to continuously improve on its animal welfare practices not only to meet these expectations, but to provide the best possible care for its animals. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also ensures the best quality meat is produced.

Good animal welfare is a legal requirement and any cruelty to animals is a criminal offence. For the industry, these legal standards are a minimum bar that we seek to exceed through ongoing efforts in research, development and adoption.

Beef producers are guided by the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines, which recommend the appropriate animal husbandry techniques that deliver better welfare outcomes for the animal.

Discussions with our stakeholders identified animal husbandry techniques as a priority for industry focus under the Framework’s animal welfare theme. This priority focuses on aversive techniques including castration, horn removal, branding and ear marking. The industry aims to find alternatives to invasive practices (e.g. through genetic selection) and rapidly increase the use of pain management as part of carrying out necessary husbandry procedures.

The industry takes responsibility for ensuring our approach is collaborative and inclusive. While producer consultation remains critical for setting investment priorities, industry is committed to partnerships with researchers and welfare experts to capitalise on cross-sectoral synergies and opportunities for collaboration.

MLA remains an active foundational member of the National Biosecurity Research Development and Extension Strategy (NABRDES) and the National Animal Welfare Research Development and Extension Strategy (NAWRDES). MLA also works closely with other cross-industry initiatives and groups such as the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) and Animal Health Australia (AHA) and collaborates directly with other research corporations and industry bodies.


Industry position

The Australian beef industry:

  • Recognises the five domains or five freedoms of animal welfare as our true north when setting best practice
  • Aspires towards zero fear, zero harm of livestock within our care
  • Recognises that Australian law and other industry standards are the minimum compared with best practice
  • Supports the continuous improvement of animal welfare based on science
  • Does not condone cruelty to livestock within our care
  • Supports the use of pain relief for invasive procedures and aspires to achieve a usage target of 100% by 2025
  • Supports and invests in alternatives to invasive animal procedures
  • Recognises that until suitable and effective arrangements are available, the industry supports practices as identified in the Standards and Guidelines for Cattle
  • Supports the promotion of the benefits of pain relief


What is the data telling us?

The percentage of beef producers regularly using pain relief when undertaking husbandry practices is reported as 15% this year (an 11% increase on 2016 data). This figure is from a 2019 producer survey, in which respondents were asked how frequently they use pain relief to manage pain for a range of husbandry practices. The respondents made up a sample reflective of Australia’s different beef producing regions and herd sizes.

The industry recognises that self-assessment is not an ideal measure. Alternative measures were explored such as pain relief drug sales, but it is not possible to split out their use by species. Self-assessment is currently the best measurement available to the Framework. The SSG is confident that the figure of 15% is not an over-representation and is comfortable to use the available data set for this update.

The percentage of producers selecting for poll gene has also increased, to an estimated 86% of the national herd being polled. In last year’s report, this was reported based on a producer survey. This year, data is courtesy of the Australian Genetics and Breeding Unit at the University of New England (AGBU), the Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association (ACBAR) and Neogen Australasia.


Snapshot of activity

MLA leads the industry's on-farm welfare program that encompasses research, development, adoption, engagement and communication activities. For animal husbandry, MLA has been focusing its efforts on three areas:

  • Replacing invasive procedures with non-invasive ones
  • Increasing the use of pain relief during animal husbandry procedures
  • Improving methods for measuring animal welfare on farm

Replacing invasive procedures

The preferred strategy for best animal welfare outcomes is to replace invasive procedures with stress-free, non-invasive procedures. This replacement strategy has been carried out by the industry through the breeding of polled (hornless) cattle which removes the need to dehorn livestock. Now 86% of cattle are polled. Effort is ongoing to increase these numbers across the industry.

MLA continues to invest in genetic research to improve the identification and breeding of polled cattle. Genetic tools have recently been made available to support breeders in selecting for the gene.

Increasing the use of pain relief during husbandry procedures

Pain relief options for beef cattle have been commercially available for two years in Australia. The principal products available are topical (Tri-Solfen), oral (Buccalgesic) and injectable (Metacam) anaesthetics.

There are many industry projects to increase the use of pain relief. They include a research project into better pain relief solutions, funded through the MLA Donor Company with matching funds from the University of Sydney and 4 Seasons. This project is investigating options for easier administrations of analgesics, the development of long-acting analgesics, and the extension of existing pain relief solutions to other livestock conditions and procedures.

Improving methods for measuring animal welfare on farm

There has been significant investment and focus on better understanding what good welfare is, how it is achieved and how to measure it. A way to objectively measure an animal’s welfare, based on physiological and behavioural parameters, is essential. Tools and technology that allow producers to record welfare will support better outcomes on-farm.

MLA has invested in research projects with the University of Adelaide, SARDI, CSIRO, NSW DPI, the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, Allflex and the Consolidated Pastoral Company to develop objective animal welfare measures, practical ways of measuring animal welfare on-farm and tools to measure welfare in real-time.