Better Beef Cattle Welfare FAQ

Better Beef Cattle Welfare FAQ

How was our Vision developed?

This document, originally released as the RSPCA Australia Beef cattle Welfare Guidelines in November 2012, has been renamed to better reflect its purpose and intent which is to outline the RSPCA's vision for better welfare across the beef cattle industry. The document builds on existing industry codes and standards for livestock management on farm, during transport, and at slaughter. Our Vision focuses specifically on areas of livestock management that influence animal welfare and have been written with the best interest of beef cattle in mind. In developing the document, input was sought from various people involved with beef cattle production, ranging from producers, to researchers and others with relevant expertise.

Does RSPCA expect vets to carry out husbandry procedures that require pain relief?

At present, the drugs available to provide pain relief may only be administered by vets. However, research is underway to look at methods of pain relief that are effective and practical to use on farm by producers themselves. Once these become available, we would expect them to be readily taken up by producers.

Does horn tipping need to be carried out with pain relief?

Horn trimming or tipping is the partial removal of the upper, insensitive part of an animal’s horn. It should, therefore, not require pain relief, but the animal should be appropriately restrained. Our Vision promotes the breeding and sourcing of polled cattle so that dehorning or horn tipping are no longer necessary.

Why can’t cattle be sold through saleyards?

Transport is stressful for farm animals and can cause suffering and distress. The process of loading and unloading, the mixing with unfamiliar animals in unfamiliar environments, the unfamiliar handling, the time off feed and water all contribute to animals experiencing transport as stressful. So, in order to reduce this stress, transport from point of origin directly to the final destination, be that an abattoir, a feedlot or another property, is, from an animal welfare perspective, the best thing to do. Our Vision is intended to convey that which is best from an animal welfare point of view.

Why can’t dogs be used in yards?

The presence of dogs is stressful for cattle. Dogs that are well trained may be used to move cattle towards and into the yards. However, once cattle are in the yards, dogs should be kept well away so as to avoid unnecessary distress. Yards restrict an animals’ ability to move away from dogs. This may cause distress and potentially result in aggression towards the dog. It is therefore also in the dog’s interest to keep them away from cattle confined to yards.

Does the RSPCA have plans to introduce standards for beef production under the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme?

The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme currently covers pigs, layer hens, meat chickens and turkeys. While we have had many expressions of interest from beef cattle producers to join the Scheme, the extensive nature of the industry means that at present we do not have the resources to adequately monitor compliance. For that reason, we have not developed a Scheme for beef cattle production just yet. Instead, our Vision and the Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge are our way of providing beef cattle producers with the opportunity to promote the good animal welfare work they are doing on farm to a wider audience.

How will RSPCA monitor compliance with the practices outlined in our Vision?

The RSPCA encourages producers to work towards continuous improvement to on-farm animal welfare. Our Vision aims to assist with this process. Producers wishing to participate in the Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge and those nominating for a Beef Cattle Welfare Award are asked to benchmark how their current practices compare to our Vision. They then commit to meeting their nominated area(s) of improvement from the document within a one, two, or three-year timeframe. The RSPCA asks that producers sign a statutory declaration to support their entry in the Challenge. For those aiming for an Award, RSPCA may decide to visit a potential Award recipient’s property to help with the shortlisting process.

How will RSPCA recognise producers who are participating in the Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge?

Beef cattle producers participating in the Challenge will have the opportunity to have their company name (and property as applicable) displayed on the RSPCA Australia website. Producers participating in the Challenge are also eligible for the Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge Award. Challenge participants are recognised publicly on World Farm Animal Day each year.

What is the Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge Award?

All producers participating in the Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge are eligible to nominate for the RSPCA’s Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge Award which recognises genuine achievement or innovation in working towards meeting the welfare challenge(s) that the producer has set. There are two Award categories. The Innovation Award recognises a new or original approach towards cattle management and/or husbandry. The Achievement Award recognises a significant step towards meeting the target set in a particular Challenge area.