An­i­mal wel­fare costly to ig­nore

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News - . AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

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.

PHOTO: AN­DREA DAVY

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.

PHOTO: AN­DREA DAVY

Univer­sity of Queens­land Pro­fes­sor Michael McGowan speak­ing at TropAg.

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