Animal welfare costly to ignore
DISREGARDING the need for improved animal welfare could cost the beef industry billions of dollars.
That was the message from University of Queensland professor Alan Tilbrook at the TropAg2017 conference in Brisbane last week.
Chairing a discussion on animal welfare in the tropics, Mr Tilbrook cited an MLA study which predicted ignoring animal welfare issues could cost the industry $3.9 billion between now and 2030.
Fellow University of Queensland Professor Michael McGowan later talked through the latest findings in a cow mortality study.
The research area covered much of the Pilbara, Kimberly, Northern Territory and Queensland beef producing regions, and used NLIS data to determine when cows died or went “missing”.
“71% of cows went missing
between the mid dry season to the end of the wet season,” Prof McGowan said.
“It’s associated with this period when females will be giving birth or lactating.
“The factors we identified in this study, which were associated with missing pregnant females, were mostly 8.4% higher for cows with poor body condition mid dry season, compared to those with good body condition.
“So if they are going into the worst of the dry season in poor body condition and they are likely to give birth, they are at a much higher risk of mortality.”
Mr McGowan stressed the importance of graziers taking ownership of ensuring their animals had a good life, and a good death.
“Australian Cattle Veterinarian president Ben Gardiner once stated our primary responsibilities were that all animals within our care have a good death,” he said.
“So culling of females, when they are reaching 10 years of age – and in some particularly tough areas it might be nine years of age – sending them to slaughter, rather than them dying on the property, is the goal we must achieve.”
It was Mr McGowan’s belief that graziers wanted to improve their practices.
“I can stand here today and tell you the northern beef industry recognises that they must do things better,” he said.
“The ‘well, that’s what my grandfather did and that’s what my father did’ no longer cuts the mustard and they know that.”
Mr McGowan finished his presentation off with a question: “How much blood does an animal lose through the dehorning process?”
No one in the room had an answer and he indicated this was an area that needed further research.
NIFTY IDEA: Melanie Lavelle-Maloney and Melinda Jones from the North Burnett Regional Council had a quirky display at TropAg 2017 highlighting the variety of soil from their region.
University of Queensland Professor Michael McGowan speaking at TropAg.