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Animal welfare issues associated with extensive livestock production: The northern Australian beef cattle industry

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Petherick, J. C. (2005) Animal welfare issues associated with extensive livestock production: The northern Australian beef cattle industry. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 92 (3). pp. 211-234. ISSN 0168-1591

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2005.05.009


The animal welfare issues faced by the northern Australian beef cattle industry are similar to those faced by extensive livestock production industries in other countries. However, northern Australia is characterised by climatic extremes and large areas/distances and these factors, together with low management inputs, mean that the industry faces significant challenges to assure high standards of animal welfare. In this review, the following issues are discussed: behavioural restriction; ‘natural disasters’; nutrition; health; a number of aspects relating to human–animal interactions, particularly mustering (gathering/rounding up) and moving cattle, and the consequences for welfare of the timing and frequency of handling; ‘surgical’ procedures; identification; transportation, including live export; and predation.

The use of cattle adapted to the northern Australian environment alleviates many potential welfare problems. In addition, significant improvements to animal welfare could be made very quickly with a few straightforward management changes, such as improved planning for extended dry periods and drought; wider use of conservative stocking rates and supplementary feeding; broader implementation of vaccination programs; and greater implementation of weaner training programs. Further, a dramatic improvement for very large numbers of cattle could be made through the selection and use of polled genotypes to eliminate horned cattle.

Research from Europe suggests that current Australian recommendations for the duration of land transportation journeys may be excessive and could compromise welfare, but further research under northern Australian conditions is required. Research and development is also needed in non-invasive alternatives to castration and spaying, but in the meantime the welfare of males could be improved by castrating earlier in the animals’ lives. However, it is acknowledged that this would require major changes to current cattle management practices.

Further research and development is required in relation to animal handling, and in particular the type, timing and frequency of experiences with stockpeople and also, on the assembly and sea transportation of cattle. Finally, a moral question exists as to whether cattle should continue to be exported to a particular country for which there is strong evidence of inhumane treatment.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Animal culture > Cattle
Live Archive:04 Feb 2024 23:23
Last Modified:04 Feb 2024 23:23

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