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Strategic Partnership for Animal Welfare RD&A

In one of the largest investments in livestock welfare research to date, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), through MLA Donor Company (MDC), has collaborated with some of the country’s leading researchers in a new partnership to undertake ground-breaking projects focused on animal welfare.

The Strategic Partnership for Animal Welfare Research, Development and Adoption (RD&A) has been launched by a group of organisations with a shared commitment to improving the Australian livestock industry’s already world-class animal welfare practices.

The Partnership involves MDC collaborating with research bodies including CSIRO Armidale; Animal Welfare Science Centre which includes the University of Melbourne, Agriculture Victoria and South Australian Research and Development Institute; University of Queensland; Charles Sturt University; University of Western Australia; University of Sydney; NSW Department of Primary Industries and University of Adelaide.

To date, ten R&D projects have been approved and will look at issues including the improvement or replacement of aversive practices such as branding, dehorning, and castration. Tools to improve the early detection of disease, test immunity and the reduction of mortality rates will also be explored.

The ten projects include:

Project Research Partners Objective

Practical measures of animal welfare

University of Adelaide, SARDI

Develop a kit of biomarkers to assess the welfare of sheep and cattle, measurable in blood, which could lead to rapid on-farm assessment of animal health and welfare.

Identifying public and producer attitudes

AWSC University of Melbourne

Evaluate trust, attitudes towards animal welfare issues and animal welfare relevant behaviours, knowledge of the welfare issues and information sources. An approach that combines these assessments will enable the red meat industry to be proactive in disseminating factual information to address public lack of knowledge or exposure to misinformation. 

Induction stress in feedlots

Charles Sturt University, Elanco Animal Health

Research the development of a feed additive to reduce induction stress in feedlot animals.

Developing the basis for an attitude-behaviour training program for stockpeople in the sheep transport and abattoir sectors

AWSC University of Melbourne

Collaborate with key sheepmeat stakeholders to review the general content of cognitive-behavioural training programs for stockpeople in the sheep transport and abattoir sectors, decide on the platform for the program and its delivery method(s) and identify potential funders and sheepmeat industry collaborators.


Welfare benchmarking and management

CSIRO, NSW DPI, University of Melbourne

Develop a framework for risk assessment, monitoring and data analysis in order to improve welfare management of beef cattle and meat sheep as they move through the supply chain.

Lamb survival


Research will focus on the incidence of dystocia, and the understanding of underlying causes. This in turn will lead to better understanding of the problem to better inform future control efforts. Focus on twin bearing ewes and inclusion of maternal cross ewes will ensure relevance to red meat producers.

Immune fitness

Sydney University

Investigate the overall well-being of livestock from the perspective of their immune fitness, aligned with susceptibility to disease and response to common external stressors encountered during production. The aim is to develop simple immune measures as a correlate of physiological health and wellbeing for use as a benchmarking tool for overall herd health and welfare and to identify/select productive livestock.

Reducing mortality rates

Sydney University,  Consolidated Pastoral Company

Reduce mortality rates of cattle and sheep using new technologies and prediction models for early warning and detection of the risk of mortality of individuals and groups. In-paddock walk-over-weighing (WoW) systems fitted with digital and thermal cameras will provide livestock health information in near-real time from at least eight different properties throughout Australia. This information together with data from weather and vegetation will be used by prediction models to predict the risk of mortality in near-real time.

Improving welfare – pain relief

Sydney University, 4 Seasons

The application of topical anaesthetics to inhibit pain sensation requires supplementation of longer acting analgesics to reduce sensitisation of wound pain and improve overall welfare outcomes. Options for practical administration of analgesics and the potential for long-acting analgesics to provide prolonged therapy will be investigated, including development of a novel self-medication strategy for use in extensive farming systems. Furthermore, emerging evidence of the efficacy of these therapeutic agents for a wide range of husbandry procedures suggests the potential for a pain management regime to be applied to other painful conditions in sheep and cattle. The outcome will provide producers with an affordable, efficacious and practical protocol for delivering pain relief on farm.

Objective, robust, real-time animal welfare measures for the Australian red meat

Sydney University, Allflex, Consolidated Pastoral Company

When animal welfare is compromised, low resilience behaviours are reduced and the underlying structure of behaviour (bout lengths, frequency of transitions between activities) is affected. These behaviours and their structure are unknown for beef cattle. This project will determine these behaviours which will then form objective measures of cattle welfare from birth to slaughter. Robot platform based light detecting and ranging (LIDAR) systems, and ear-tag based technology will be simultaneously used to remotely monitor and collate these behaviours to detect practices and situations that compromise welfare and allow rectification.


Securing ongoing consumer and community support for the red meat industry by continuously improving animal welfare is a key priority of the livestock production sector.

For more information about the Strategic Partnership for Animal Welfare Research, Development and Adoption (RD&A), please contact:

Dr Johann Schroder
MLA Program Manager, Animal Health Welfare and Biosecurity
Email Johann Schroder