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Room 1 - Cattle / Welfare Stream, brought to you by Zoetis

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Session Program
7:15 pm
 | The viewpoint of the Australian public towards animal welfare in the live export industry has previously been explored; however, the attitudes of people who work in the industry is unknown. A survey was completed by 265 people including producers, feedlot and shipboard workers, veterinarians and exporters. The survey was completed in English, Arabic, Bangla, Vietnamese, Filipino, Bahasa Indonesian and covered participants from Australia/ New Zealand, SE Asia and the Middle East. The majority of respondents agreed/strongly agreed (97%) that ‘livestock should be treated with respect’, that ‘livestock have feelings’ (88%), that ‘when moving livestock, it is better to remain calm than shout in a loud voice’ (88%) and that ‘it is important to move livestock slowly’ (89%). While many believed that animal welfare in their workplace was satisfactory, many suggested improvements. Subsequently, respondents were found to show empathy and compassion towards their charges and consider the welfare of the animals as important. Participants also demonstrated a commitment to improving welfare in their workplace. Mann-Whitney U tests found that some responses differed according to nationality, religion, role in industry and age. Non-Australians, those describing themselves as religious and people aged over 30 years were more likely to disagree with the statement ‘hitting cattle helps when moving them’. These results challenge the previously proposed theory that workers involved with exported livestock have an inhumane attitude towards the animals under their care. This survey is an important step towards addressing these misconceptions and to help determine ways to facilitate industry improvement in animal welfare.
7:45 pm
Cattle feedlot environments are often described as barren, providing limited opportunity for cattle to perform their full behavioural repertoire. The general public are becoming more interested in animal welfare, requiring industries to be transparent in how animals are treated and be able to prove a quality of life. Therefore, providing feedlot cattle with an opportunity to perform more natural behaviours could lead, not only to an improved quality of life at the feedlot, but may also impact productivity. While enrichment for dairy cattle has been investigated, studies on a commercial scale in feedlots are minimal. Our project looked at providing exercise as a form of enrichment, where cattle were let into the laneway for a period of time or moved calmly around their pen using low-stress stock handling. How these enrichments impacted cattle temperament (through crush scores and exit speeds, avoidance tests and novel person tests) and behaviour (ethogram) over a 40day period will be discussed. 

8:15 pm
 | Animal welfare monitoring protocols currently used by the Australian livestock export industry rely on the use of input measures relating to environment, resources and management, and outputs relating to morbidity and mortality. More recently, animal behavioural outcomes have been recognised as important indicators of welfare for animals in all livestock production systems. Our research project has created a system for recording the welfare conditions of cattle and sheep in the Australian livestock export supply chain. We used a suite of easily defined and universally understood measures to explore the links between environmental and management conditions and the health and behavioural outcomes for cattle and sheep during the live export process. Four consignments of cattle and three consignments of sheep were assessed at different stages of the export supply chain by a pen side observer. Measurements were taken in Australian pre-export facilities, at multiple times of the day on each day during the sea voyage, and in destination feedlots and quarantine centres. The protocol has proven to successfully record behavioural changes as animals become habituated to intensive management practices during the export process. Links between behaviour and health outcomes with changing environmental conditions and resource access were also detected. Preliminary data analysis aims to determine how many animals constitute a representative sample, and the sampling frequency required to provide accurate insight into the welfare of the whole consignment. Our data have indicated that, during a sea voyage, assessments must be made from different lines of livestock and from areas of the ship that differ in environmental conditions or resource access. Multiple daily sampling is required to show patterns of appropriate activity and resting behaviour, as well as responses to changing conditions such as heat and respite periods. Decisions about the impacts of management and environmental conditions, the suitability of livestock and the regulation of industry, can be better informed by taking a whole of supply chain approach to assessing and reporting on animal-based outcomes for live sheep and cattle exported from Australia.

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