Keeping the cattle happy

No doubt you’ve heard the saying ‘happy wife, happy life’, but when you’re a grain fed beef producer (or a lot feeder as they’re referred to) there’s a more important motto to live by – ‘keep the cattle happy’.

To achieve this, every member of a feedlot’s team follows the principles set out in the Five Domains (previously referred to as Five Freedoms).

The Five Domains hold the key to animal health, and they are the standards that feedlots strive for to ensure the welfare of the animals in their care.

1. Nutrition

This means providing a diet that meets all the nutritional needs of the cattle, and ensuring water of both sufficient quality and quantity is available at all times.

Cattle are delivered a carefully-balanced diet twice a day. Grains are milled or flaked fresh every day. Permanent water troughs are in every pen and are cleaned and changed frequently.

2. Environment

This means providing an appropriate environment for cattle, including shelter and a comfortable resting place.

Feedlots must provide sufficient space for the cattle to move around easily. Many feedlots provide shelter and shade to ensure cattle have a comfortable resting place, and pens are cleaned regularly to remove manure.

3. Health

This means prevention through rapid diagnosis, and rapid and appropriate treatment for animals that have a condition.

Every feedlot employs a team known as Pen Riders who pass through the cattle pens daily, either on horseback or on foot, to assess the health and contentment of each animal to identify and treat any care requirements.

It is their day-to-day job to make sure the cattle under their care are healthy and if they need help, they get help.

To ensure freedom from pain, injury and disease, feedlot staff not only maintain a close relationship with the cattle under their care, but also their veterinarian.

4. Behaviour

This means ensuring cattle have sufficient space to move around and naturally lie down, the opportunity to interact with other cattle, and the opportunity through adequate roughage in their diet to spend time ruminating.

Cattle are naturally curious and social animals, and it’s in both the lot feeder’s and the cattle’s best interest that they are provided enough room in each pen to exhibit the behaviours they would in a pasture-based environment.

5. Mental state

This means providing animals with conditions and handling that avoids stress.  

Central to this is interacting with the cattle in the least stressful way possible. Using what is known as the low-stress stock handling technique, Pen Riders mingle with the cattle on horseback or on foot to keep external noise to a minimum.

Providing a physical environment void of stress is also key, which means building facilities that cater to the natural herd behaviours of cattle.

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If you would like to learn more about how Australian grain fed beef producers care for their cattle, visit the Ethical Farming page.

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