Low Stress Stockhandling – ticking boxes for Animal Welfare and Production

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Livestock producers work within a competitive space under  ever increasing scrutiny from both animal activist groups and  consumers. Cost of production can be prohibitive, but there  are certain things that can be done to improve the quality and  value of the product. LSS is one of them.  Production and  ultimately financial reward are key drivers behind the concepts  embraced through Low Stress Stockhandling Schools.

Research has shown that animals can lose as much as 6 % in  shrinkage and “dark cutters” are severely discounted if not  condemned.  Dark cutting beef (DCB) is largely linked with  stress and the mobilisation of muscle glycogen (energy  store)in the live animal prior to slaughter. Discounts of up to  $0.60/kg can be applied for each carcass determined to be a  dark cutter. This equates to a $150 discount for a 250kg  carcass. Shrinkage directly affects the income of all cattle producers. Shrinkage can be reduced through better handling techniques, attention to environment and diet, market planning and an appreciation of animal psychology.

Numerous trials conducted in the Northern Territory monitored weight loss in mobs of heifers on a particular property.  From paddock weight to weighing at a live export depot, 12% loss of body weight was normal. By working and transporting the animals using Low Stress Stock Handling Techniques, shrinkage was reduced to 8% . This equated to a difference of 14kg/head, @$1.60 = $22.40/hd, or $67,200 over the mob of 3000 head. A trial on young cattle (200-350kg) at Moree, saw 242 head fed for 47 days.  An average daily gain of 1.2kg /day for an intake of 3.25% of animal body weight was achieved. The second mob were handled with some particular LSS methods and consisted of 348 young cattle (200-350 kg) which were fed for an average of 59 days. They ate 3.5% of  their body weight and gained an average of 1.8 kg per day. This group ate 8% more feed and put on 50% more weight. For an extra 16c/day in feed costs they put on an extra 80c/day in value. Over the mob of 348 head, this equates to $278/day or approx. $15,400 increase in profit over the mob. The feed programme for both mobs was the same, and the cattle were similar. The difference in performance was due to the way the two mobs were handled.

Three Low Stress Stockhandling workshops have been held in the Burdekin region over the past twelve months. Organiser Lisa Hutchinson, the Burdekin Grazing BMP coordinator with NQ Dry Tropics, said  “ it is always rewarding to run events that you know will influence individuals, enterprises and ultimately the industry.  The Grazing BMP program exposes beef producers to practices that can help improve the long-term profitability of their enterprise and these schools ticked all the boxes for new knowledge and practical skills that can be implemented immediately. Low stress stock handling challenges everything your Dad taught you, so the schools were both stimulating and thought provoking. Enormous benefits for both animal welfare and production outcomes can be achieved by handling cattle quietly, and there was no-one better equipped to deliver these schools than the man who developed the concepts – Jim Lindsay.”

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