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Design and management

MLA has produced the Beef cattle feedlots: design and construction manual that takes lot feeders and consultants through the stages of:

  • selecting a suitable site
  • designing the feedlot and its facilities
  • feedlot and facility construction
  • overall project management. 

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’s Beef cattle feedlots: waste management and utilisation manual deals with the management of the main wastes of the feedlot, namely manure and effluent.  

Odours

Odours from feedlots and intensive finishing systems 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 accumulates in storage areas before being disposed of. 

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

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 include maintaining clean feed and pen areas through the:

  • regular removal of waste
  • 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 as quickly as possible for spreading at a later date
  • 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. Flies can also carry and spread disease. 

Energy and water use 

Feedlots and intensive finishing systems can be significant users of energy and water. It’s important that these are managed efficiently to ensure environmental and economic sustainability. 

Energy is primarily used for milling and mixing the feed and delivering it to the animals in the feedlot. Most of the water used is consumed by the animals as drinking water. Water is also used in the feed milling process and to suppress dust. The availability and security of water has been identified as the most significant issue limiting the growth potential and size of the feedlot sector. 

The increasing cost of energy and the scarcity of water mean that feedlot and intensive finishing operations must proactively manage efficient usage of both energy and water. 

National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS)

The NFAS requires that environmental management procedures be established and implemented in adherence with the current National Beef Cattle Feedlot Environmental Code of Practice. This includes the management of water to ensure availability of good quality water at all times. 

These procedures ensure that clear and achievable environmental objectives are outlined, and performance indicators, operational practices and monitoring programs established. Through the NFAS: 

  • feedlot managers must be aware of and adhere to their environmental legislative requirements
  • employees must be aware of and adhere to their environmental management responsibilities and be adequately trained.

A feedlot's environmental performance is reviewed through the NFAS on an annual basis or as required by the regulatory authority.