Animal welfare is key to maintaining market access
Consumers are increasingly demanding higher standards of welfare in animal production systems. The Meat Industry Strategic Plan 2020 identified animal welfare as the single biggest risk to maintaining market access of animal products in the next 10 years.
To ensure that consumer confidence in the industry is maintained, the beef sector wants to be able to demonstrate its commitment to improving cattle welfare. Achieving this will require scientifically backed data to show where the industry is at and allow it to demonstrate continuous improvement into the future.
Developing a tool to assess and benchmark the welfare of beef cattle
We are working with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Meat and Livestock Australia to develop a producer-driven, science-based tool to assess and benchmark the welfare of beef cattle on-farm. This tool will allow producers to objectively track changes in welfare performance over time, clearly identify areas that can be improved and to learn from their peers to improve the welfare of their herds.
Measures to assess and benchmark welfare performance
Through scientific research and industry consultation, the project team have drafted a suite of measures to assess and benchmark the welfare performance of pasture-based beef cattle operations. This includes a range of management, resource and animal-based measures that were derived from an extensive review of the literature, existing auditing schemes and the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle.
The next phase of the project will involve applying the benchmarking program on-farm to determine the validity, reliability and feasibility of the shortlisted welfare measures for inclusion in the final benchmarking program. Obtaining real-life experiences from producers using the program under commercial conditions will be vital for shaping the welfare benchmarking program into an effective and valuable tool for industry.