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Odour and waste management

With large numbers of animals concentrated in a small area, odour and waste are inevitable by-products of feedlot and intensive finishing systems. How these are managed has important consequences for:

  • Animal welfare
  • Occupational health and safety (OHS)
  • The environment

Social issues can also arise where odours and waste are not effectively managed at feedlots and intensive finishing operations near towns or centres.

MLA has produced a manual to deal with the managament of the main wastes of the feedlot, namely manure and effluent. Click here to view Beef Cattle Feedlots: waste management and utilisation.


Many animals in a small area can result in a build up of odours that are generally associated with the decomposition of animal waste and feedstuffs. Odours can become a problem if pens and feed bunks are not cleaned regularly or if waste is allowed to accumulate in storage areas before being disposed of.

Of particular importance is ammonia which can impact animal welfare and OH&S if not managed effectively. Good ventilation and waste management practices are central to minimising odour.

Odours are linked to waste and the management of odours are dependant on good waste management.

Waste management

Waste management in a feedlot or intensive finishing environment will influence odour production and other environmental issues such as effluent run-off.

Good waste management should aim to maintain clean feed and pen areas through the regular removal of waste and the capture and management of run-off during rain events.

Once removed, waste should be either:

  • Spread as quickly as possible on pasture or cropping country as a natural fertiliser.
  • Stockpiled for spreading (as quickly as possible).
  • Composted through the addition of straw to the manure.

Stocking density management also plays an important role in managing odour. Livestock should be penned at densities that comply with industry recommendations and guidelines and to suit the environment. Pen densities should allow regular and thorough pen, bunk and fence line cleaning and the removal of animal and feedstuff waste.

Good waste management will deliver additional animal welfare benefits by reducing potential breeding sites for flies. In large numbers, flies can pose a problem in a feedlot or intensive finishing environment due to their annoying behaviour, which can result in agitation and reduced feed intake. They can also carry and spread disease.

More information