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Back to Research & Development



MLA’s animal husbandry research and development (R&D) investments aim to enhance animal welfare through best practice, increase levels of productivity and profitability and enhance public support of the red meat industry.

This area of investment focuses on enabling practice change by producers when caring for, raising and breeding livestock by removing or replacing aversive husbandry methods.

Improved husbandry practices increase individual animal and herd performance, reduce livestock mortality and strengthen the red meat industry’s social licence to operate.

Core activities

Primary R&D projects in animal husbandry focus on:

  • facilitating the integration of parasite and pest management with the husbandry calendar to improve efficiency and animal welfare
  • replacing painful and aversive husbandry practices, such as de-horning by providing genetic tests to breed out horns from beef production systems, and breeding plain-bodied sheep that don’t need to be mulesed
  • ameliorating unavoidable aversive practices with pain relief products
  • ensuring the accuracy and availability of existing guides to animal husbandry practices
  • capturing meat processor data on health conditions and feeding these back to farms as an indicator of success in animal husbandry practices
  • linking carcase quality information at slaughter with life-time animal management, health and production data
  • improving producer understanding of behavioural control methods
  • identifying more efficient and humane methods of euthanasing livestock in the field.

Benefits to industry

  • Producer adoption of non-aversive husbandry techniques improves animal welfare and positively responds to community expectations about the way livestock are treated.
  • Improved husbandry practices increase animal welfare, individual animal and herd performance and reduces livestock morbidity and mortality.

Husbandry best practice

The outcomes of MLA’s animal husbandry R&D has been used to produce best-practice husbandry information for cattle, sheep and goat producers:

Standards and guidelines

Livestock industries, government and researchers collaborated over several years to prepare Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines with which to replace the traditional Model Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals. Through membership of the relevant Standards Reference Groups, MLA contributed to this process.

The Australian Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Animals – Land Transport of Livestock was the first of these new Standards and Guidelines to be completed, and was endorsed by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council in May 2009. The Australian Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Cattle and Sheep were completed in 2015 and endorsed by the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum (AGMIN) in 2016. SA was the first state to introduce regulation on 15th April 2017 and other States and Territories are progressively following suit.