Home' Target 100 : Animal Welfare Contents Animal Health
Recent rapid advances in genetics have resulted in a push for science to provide insights into how we can predict which
animals will be the best for any particular system. This is a priority area for the industry’s research and development
program. Genetic technology is used to identify animals that have favourable traits that can improve animal welfare
outcomes. For example, the more active a lamb is at birth the more likely it is to survive. Studies have shown that
lamb vigour, shown by behaviours such as the time it takes a lamb to stand and suckle, or bleat – is a trait that can
be passed on genetically.
Target 100 Initiative #28, funded by cattle and sheep farmers and carried out by CSIRO and the University of New England
in New South Wales, is looking at ways to increase lamb survival rates by identifying these active lambs. This project is using
SmartTag technology to measure ewe and lamb behaviour during and immediately after birth. The results will help improve
field-based measures for assessing the vigour of newborn lambs.
Genetic research can decrease the need for surgical procedures, such as dehorning cattle. This is important as horned
cattle can injure other animals and people working with the animals. Some cattle are naturally born without horns (polled
cattle). Northern Territory farmers are working with scientists in farmer-funded research to demonstrate a genetic test to
selectively breed polled cattle (Target 100 Initiative #53).
BREEDING AND ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
Just like household pets are desexed to prevent unwanted breeding, castrating of males is an important husbandry technique
to prevent unwanted breeding in cattle and sheep. As well as reducing unwanted breeding, which allows greater control over
genetic gains through selective mating, castration also results in male animals that are less aggressive and less likely to fight
– reducing bruising and injuries to other animals. It also means that males and female animals can be kept together for longer
and the animals are easier to handle and less likely to get stressed. While these practices are being carried out using the best
possible techniques today, scientists are also using farmer-funded research to develop alternatives.
Target 100 Initiative #75 is a research project being undertaken by the CSIRO and SVW Technologies that is looking at the
use of needle-free technology to develop a device that could inject a local anaesthetic. This is being developed to reduce pain
associated with castration and potentially other surgical husbandry practices.
Another project funded by farmers and carried out by CSIRO, Target 100 Initiative #42, is investigating the training of
animals to self-administer pain relief drugs by consuming food containing medicine. Reward from the relief of pain leads
to associative learning by animals. If sheep and cattle can readily learn to self-medicate on feed containing non-addictive
medication it could provide an opportunity for animals to provide themselves with extended pain relief by repeated self-
dosing. This project will look at whether self-medication is feasible for on-farm delivery of analgesics for pain relief and
whether self-medication can be used as an indicator of pain in sheep and cattle.
BREEDING, GENETICS AND ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
LOW STRESS STOCK HANDLING
There is plenty of science involved in understanding
animal behaviour and how to best work with sheep and
cattle to decrease stress. In handling animals there are
several reasons why it’s important to minimise stress – to
both the cattle and sheep and to the operator handling
the animals. The prime concern is health and welfare
of the people and animals involved; however, handling
can also affect animal performance and meat quality.
Successful handling of cattle and sheep requires an
understanding of their natural behaviour. For example
cattle and sheep are herd animals – meaning they like to
follow each other. A separated animal will always try to
return to the mob.
It is important to ensure that the people handing
animals are trained at low stress stock handling. Target 100 Initiative #20, funded by cattle and sheep farmers and
undertaken by the Australian College of Training, recognises training for livestock export stockmen. Under this initiative,
stockmen accompany exported animals on their journey from Australia to their destination market to ensure their health
and well being. This project is working to have the stockman-training course formally recognised and approved under the
Australian Qualification Training Framework.
Another initiative funded through farmer levies (Target 100 Initiative #47) involves investigating alternative ways of
handling sheep. For this project the University of Western Australia, Stress Free Stockmanship and ProHand will use
alternative handling techniques that utilise the natural behaviour of sheep to achieve desired movements without activating
the animals’ stress responses. The project will also seek to demonstrate the value of stockperson training on animal welfare
by targeting the behaviour and attitudes of stockpeople to ensure long-lasting changes in the way animals are handled.
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