Fit & Feeling Good – AWO Update, Summer 2015/16
30 November 2015
Dear Feedlot Animal Welfare Officer,
Ensuring good animal welfare outcomes is a priority for the Australian cattle feedlot industry. This newsletter has been developed to provide support and information on the successful implementation and auditing of good animal husbandry practices on your feedlot.
Update on progress of the Animal Welfare Officer Training Assessments
Submission of outstanding assignments for the Feedlot Animal Welfare Officer (AWO) Training assessments closed in October. Of the 147 participants that attended the training, 137 (93%) successfully completed the assessment and met all the requirements for the AWO skill set. This is an outstanding outcome from this first round of the training. The assessments have been checked and moderated by TAFE South West Queensland and have been passed onto their Administration for processing. Successful participants will shortly be issued with a Certificate of Attainment for the AWO Skills Set in the following units of competency:
- MTMP2010A Apply animal welfare and handling requirements
- MTMP414A Oversee humane handling of animals.
ALFA is planning to run further AWO training courses in the second half of 2016 for those feedlots and feedlot staff that missed out this year. Details will be posted on the new ALFA online Events Calendar at www.feedlots.com.au – be sure to keep an eye out for when registrations open.
What are some of the potential animal welfare issues that you should be addressing this summer season?
- Heat stress is the number one concern for most feedlots in the approaching hot season. During the heat of summer there are a number of tasks that need to be undertaken on a daily basis to protect your cattle from the impact of excessive heat load. Areas for daily monitoring include:
- If you have not done so already, ensure your feedlot is signed up to the Cattle Heat Load Toolbox service (http://chlt.katestone.com.au/). The online tool is a subscription only service and is available free of charge to accredited feedlots to:
- Provide heat load forecasts across Australia
- Deliver warnings of impending heat load events
- Provide online access to local weather forecasts and the Risk Analysis Program
- Provide guidance to feedlot operators to minimise cattle mortalities and morbidities as a result of excessive heat load including access to the useful Managing Summer Heat Workbook.
Animal welfare in the news
American Animal Welfare Scientist Professor Temple Grandin has reported that when she inspects animal handling facilities, including feedlots, she looks at “critical control points” and outcomes that reflect animal welfare standards. These include simple indicators that could be measured such as body condition, cleanliness of stock and pens, whether cattle were gentle and quiet or vocalising, stock handling scores, the size of the flight zones, ammonia levels and the quality of water provided.
Heat stress was another factor. A simple scientifically documented way to measure if an animal was suffering heat stress was to monitor its breathing. “When cattle open their mouth, their tongue starts to come out, they’re in severe heat stress” she said, “that is easier to measure that trying to count respiration rates”.
Professor Grandin said measurement was essential to improving animal welfare outcomes. These are things I can measure, and then I can tell is handling getting better, or is handling getting worse,” she explained. “Because we have got to make sure with all these things we do not let bad become normal.”
For more on Temple Grandin’s recent inspection of live export facilities in Indonesia and Australia see this Beef Central Article.
AWO Training identifies areas for improvement at Teys Australia Charlton Feedlot
Teys Australia Charlton Feedlot in Victoria, had five staff members from their livestock and management team attend the Moama Animal Welfare Officer training workshop in March.
After returning from the course and completing their Animal Welfare audit assessment, areas for potential improvement were identified. “The drafting gates from the induction shed were identified as having a pretty sharp angle for the cattle to turn, and had the potential for animals to slip and fall when being processed” said Ashley Sheahan, Feedlot Manager. “Rubber matting was already being used at the front of the chute however some animals were still slipping as they went through the drafting gates” Ashley added.
Alterations have now been made to the induction yards to positively improve the health and welfare of animals being processed through the facility, including:
- The drafting gates have been moved further away from the chute to allow the cattle more time before having to turn the corner.
- Rubber belting and opened out, half car tyres have been used to further line the posts and rails to add additional protection against bumps and bruises for the cattle.
- Rubber matting has been further extended through the drafting area.
“The changes have taken speed off the cattle before they have to turn and eliminated the slips and falls through this area” Ashley observed. Other changes around the yards have been the installation of rubber matting at the base of the unloading ramp and changing from the use of straw to woodchips as a bedding material in the chronic sick cattle pens. These changes ensure cattle are received and processed to their feeding pens with reduced stress and a lowered chance of injury.
“The health and welfare of the cattle at the feedlot is always of the highest priority and animal welfare audits allow for continued monitoring and improvements.” Ashley concluded.
Meat & Livestock Australia R & D Snapshot
The Heat Load Nutrition Program (B.FLT.0157) is a 5 year (2013-2018) collaborative project between the CSIRO (Dr. Gene Wijffels) and University of Queensland (Dr. John Gaughan & Dr. Megan Sullivan). Researchers are examining whether bacterial endotoxin from the gut leaks into the bloodstream during periods of heat stress, triggering inflammation, lowering health status and production in animals. Information obtained from this project will help direct further research into nutritional strategies to ameliorate the impacts of heat stress.
Key outcomes of the project so-far include:
- Rumen temperatures remain elevated after acute heat stress, taking up to 3 days to recover after cessation of the excessive heat load event. Therefore, recovery time after Excessive Heat Load (EHL) events is extremely important.
- Chamber studies revealed acute periods of heat stress lower bicarbonate levels of the blood stream due to excessive panting (respiratory alkalosis). Additionally, greater concentrations of the appetite supressing hormone leptin were present in the blood.
- Greater levels of inflammatory markers in the blood stream have been observed for cattle over the summer periods in Australian feedlot research experiments.
In combination with EHL forecasting systems, it is essential feedlots observe cattle behaviour. Ultimately, the cattle will tell you if they are stressed or not. In the 2015/2016 summer, MLA is supporting the testing and development of a Smart-Phone App for daily monitoring of cattle behaviour across 12 feedlot sites. Data obtained from this trial will allow real time comparison of cattle behaviour with AHLU and HLI information, to improve our knowledge base and support heat-load model refinements into the future.
For more information on this and other MLA R & D projects contact:
Dr. Joseph McMeniman
MLA Feedlot R & D Project Manager
Ph: 0447 264 341
For more information, contact:
Manager, Policy and Projects
Australian Lot Feeders’ Association
Ph: 02 9290 3700