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Literature review of pain and welfare impacts associated with on-farm cattle husbandry procedures

Project start date: 10 September 2007
Project end date: 16 December 2008
Publication date: 01 September 2014
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
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​This project was conducted to provide the cattle industry with information needed to negotiate the development of new cattle welfare standards.  The project reviewed the welfare science on five beef cattle husbandry practices: castration, spaying, dehorning, branding and ear marking.  It also examined Australian and international standards for the conduct of these practices, including those of a selection of animal welfare groups.  There is a considerable body of science on castration and dehorning in particular.  Regimes for effective anaesthesia and/or analgesia have been developed for various methods of castration and dehorning and certain methods are preferable to others from a welfare perspective.  There is less information available on the other practices.  A review of pain management in other species reinforced the potential effectiveness of local anaesthesia and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.  Current Australian welfare standards for cattle and sheep are generally in line with those of New Zealand and less restrictive than those of European countries.
This review attempts only to present the science of cattle welfare with some consideration of a range of standards.  Industry must make judgements about appropriate levels of animal welfare that also take into account practicality, cost, public perception, market acceptability and other factors.  A series of recommendations is made to assist the industry deal with the possible medium- and long-term evolution of animal welfare expectations and legislation.

More information

Project manager: Keith Walker
Primary researcher: Strategic Enterprise development