The Australian red meat industry is committed to animal welfare and the care of its livestock.
Red meat producers are aware of their responsibilities for their animal's welfare. Australia has become an international leader in the development of industry welfare standards and guidelines.
To further improve the well-being of Australian cattle, sheep and goats, Meat & Livestock Australia invests millions of dollars in research projects and provides tools and knowledge for beef, sheep and goat producers.
State animal welfare acts and regulations
Each state has its own animal welfare Act and accompanying regulations. The Act and regulations are for people who own or work with animals.
To ensure a consistently high level of animal welfare on a national basis, MLA and red meat industry peak councils are collaborating with the various state government departments who are developing a comprehensive national animal welfare standard with guidelines for the red meat and livestock industry.
MLA’s animal welfare R&D program
MLA's Animal Welfare Program, focuses on livestock production including on-farm management, livestock handling, transport and product quality. Animal welfare R&D is undertaken on-farm, at feedlots and various stages of livestock exports and red meat production.
This program is in line with the International priorities of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), the world animal health organisation, and the Australian Government's national strategic framework - the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS).
On-farm – codes of practice
The red meat industry has established codes of practice to provide information to producers around the production and care of livestock. These codes define acceptable welfare practices for livestock husbandry and transport.
Feedlots – National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme
The Australian feedlot industry developed the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS) in the early 1990s. The NFAS incorporates a strict animal welfare component, which ensures the cattle in the feedlot are well cared for and monitored on a daily basis. Feed, water and air quality, temperature and heat levels are constantly monitored. If an animal displays any signs of illness, it is treated by a veterinarian.
Feedlots are independently audited to ensure compliance to the NFAS, and all its components. Through research to improve understanding of optimal conditions in feedlots, MLA works closely with the Australian feedlot sector to improve animal welfare, particularly with regards to heat load stress.
Transportation – quality assurance program
Livestock need to be transported between properties, feedlots, saleyards, meat processing facilities and to other markets. To ensure the welfare of livestock on these journeys, and to maintain the quality of the red meat product, a national guide and quality assurance system has been developed by industry and governments. Red meat producers are provided with the national guide to assist them with the transportation of livestock.
The 'Is it fit to load?' publication was developed by MLA in consultation with the livestock industry to help cattle, sheep and goat farmers decide if an animal is 'fit and healthy' for transport . This helps ensure the safe arrival of animals at their next destination. The red meat and livestock industry husbandry and transport codes of practice recommend how livestock should be prepared for transport. These recommendations include rest periods, and the feed and water requirements.
The TruckCare initiative has been developed to provide quality assurance around truck transportation in the livestock industry. The programs are independently audited and built on sound international standards.
Australia is a world leader in animal welfare practices related to livestock exports. These practices extend from the farm through to the port, on-ship and in export destinations. Any person involved in the export of livestock, from farm to vessel, must comply with the Australian Standards for Export of Livestock. Relevant industry Export Standards legislate how livestock should be prepared for transport, including rest periods and feed and water requirements.
MLA and LiveCorp joint initiatives, such as 'In the ute. Not the boot' have helped improve sheep transportation in the Middle East markets. MLA developed the publication, 'Is it fit to export?', which provides those in the livestock export industry with information on whether cattle, sheep and goats destined for export are suitable for the journey. On longer journeys an AQIS-accredited vet accompanies each shipment.
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