Animal Health and Welfare

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A profitable livestock business depends on sound animal health and welfare. High standards of animal health and welfare are crucial to industry’s reputation and market access. Regulations applicable to disease management and livestock movements must be considered in all situations. 

Animal health and welfare must be considered when:

  • managing diseases, parasites, possible sources of toxicity and predation
  • instigating herd health programs to tackle subclinical endemic disease
  • undertaking livestock handling and husbandry procedures
  • transporting livestock
  • responding to irregular events, such as extreme weather conditions
  • preparing for events that could pose a threat to animal health or welfare such as disease outbreaks.

Written management plans are valuable tools for management of animal health and welfare, both in daily operations and when unexpected events occur.

This module comprises five key areas that are critical for good animal health and welfare.

Key area 1 – Health management program

Disease results from a complex interaction between animal, agent (bacterium, virus or toxin) and environment (weather, management, diet). When all three are balanced, the animal can remain healthy, even in the presence of bacteria, viruses or toxins. When factors alter the characteristics of the animal, the amount of agent present and environmental conditions, the balance can be upset and disease occur. 

A well-planned approach to managing livestock health and welfare includes:

  • selecting livestock adapted to the environment
  • preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of sickness and disease
  • early treatment if disease occurs, and
  • using as few chemicals as possible.
Key area 2 – Biosecurity

Farm biosecurity is a set of measures designed to protect a property from the entry and spread of pests, diseases and weeds. Biosecurity is the responsibility of every person visiting or working on the property.

Exotic diseases are far less likely to occur, but have the potential to economically and socially damage the livestock industry. Producers need to be aware of unusual clinical signs that may indicate an exotic disease and also of how these diseases could inadvertently enter the country. For example, Foot and Mouth disease could be introduced via illegally imported meat products.

A biosecurity plan is a requirement of the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program.

Key area 3 – Animal welfare

The welfare of livestock is paramount to their health, productive capacity and ultimately the profitability of the enterprise. It is in the long-term interest of industry and individual producers to demonstrate high standards of animal care. 

The “Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle” when implemented by state governments will outline the legislative requirements (the Standards) that must be complied with by all people responsible for livestock and recommended practices which should be undertaken to achieve desirable livestock welfare outcomes (the Guidelines). 

Key area 4 – Livestock transport

From an animal welfare perspective, transport management commences before the journey begins and ends after the journey is complete, with the pre-transport phase being critical to success.

Any person in charge of livestock at any time carries a duty of care or responsibility for the welfare of the livestock. They are expected to take reasonable action to minimise welfare risks.

The “Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines – Land Transport of Livestock” have been implemented in all states (except Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory). The Standards outline the legal requirements for livestock transport and the Guidelines provide guidance for all people responsible for livestock transport.

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