Animal Husbandry in Australia: Best Practices

Animal Husbandry

Animal husbandry is an area of agriculture that involves the breeding and care of farm animals. Animals are raised to produce food and other products for human consumption, including meat, milk, eggs, fibres and other products.

There are different types of animals that are farmed, including poultry, cattle, fish and insects. Employing the best animal husbandry techniques can help to improve farm productivity and product quality.

Sheep and cattle farming is the largest agricultural industry in Australia, with a market size of six billion dollars. The Sheep and Cattle Farming industry is projected to continue growing its revenue over the next five years. There is no better time to improve your animal husbandry practices to maximise the welfare of animals and product quality.

Good animal welfare is a legal requirement and any cruelty to animals is a criminal offence in Australia. National animal husbandry practices are designed with the health and safety of animals in mind. All farms practising animal husbandry must abide by the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.

Good Animal Welfare

It is nationally recognised that good animal husbandry involves minimising stress and pain in animals. There are many techniques involved in improving animal welfare such as,

  • Non-invasive procedures
  • Quality feed
  • Appropriate population density for the species

The major cause of pain and stress in animals is invasive animal husbandry practices. It’s best practice to replace invasive procedures with non-invasive ones and always use pain relief medication.

Animal Husbandry Procedures

CastrationRemoving testicles to control breeding, aggression and wandering.
DehorningRemoving horns from young cattle to prevent harm to other livestock and human handlers.
Tail Docking (sheep)Removing part of the tail to prevent flystrike.
BrandingMarking to indicate ownership, gender and age.
Ear TaggingPlacing a tag of the ear to enable tracking.

For example, a major cause of stress and pain in cattle is the practice of dehorning, which is the removal of horns from young cattle. The reason for dehorning cattle is to reduce the risk of them hurting themselves and each other as well as human handlers.

An example of a non-invasive technique to dehorn cattle is to breed polled (hornless) cattle. Genetic tools are available in Australia to support breeders in producing polled cattle. Pain relief products are becoming increasingly available in Australia for use when performing animal husbandry procedures, including topicals, oral medications and injectables.

High-Quality Feed

A major component of improving animal welfare and the quality of livestock commodities is feeding high-quality feed. The major grains used in animal feed are wheat, barley, sorghum and soybean. It’s essential to employ feed diversification to ensure your livestock are getting the appropriate nutrition.

All hay bales should always be stored properly to ensure they are weed and mould free. Covering your hay bales with good quality hay tarps helps to protect them from the elements thereby preventing mould and the build-up of harmful bacteria. It also helps to ensure the nutrient value remains high.

Disease Prevention

It is essential to employ sanitisation as an important part of good animal husbandry. To reduce pathogen build-up and keep your livestock healthy all facilities must be cleaned regularly.

Seek advice on what chemicals are safe to use to disinfect livestock facilities, as to not cause harm to animals or workers. Use chemical disinfectants and cleansers strictly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure thorough rinsing if required.

 Another way to reduce disease is by maintaining the appropriate population density for the species and age group. When housing facilities are overcrowded, the outbreak of disease is more severe, which can quickly destroy a whole herd/flock. Proper housing and management of animal facilities are essential to animal welfare and preventing disease and injury.

If animals become sick, it’s essential to segregate them from healthy animals. All farms that are involved in animal husbandry should employ veterinarians to help in controlling and treating disease and injury in animals. Another way to prevent disease is via vaccines. Vaccines are becoming more readily available in Australia to combat infectious diseases.

It’s important to remember that disease does not only breed within facilities. Diseases can be introduced from the outside world. To prevent contamination by vehicles and visitors, ensure effective sanitisation and personal hygiene.

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