A groundbreaking training course is getting the message out about improved productivity through better animal welfare to people working in the livestock business.
Goondiwindi Regional Council were hosts to a new initiative’s pilot program, alongside Frasers Livestock Transport and the Queensland Trucking Association, with the aim of improving transport practice.
Precise rules around animal welfare can be difficult to define from different perspectives in the food supply chain. However, most of the rules can be boiled down to the fact that those who are handling the animals have a responsibility for their care and must insure that they are free from distress and are content.
The globally recognised standard for animal welfare is often talked about in terms of five freedoms. These include freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress.
Apart from the ethical considerations and legal requirements, the customer expectations on the issue of product quality is also very important when talking about animal welfare. This was the message which was brought home by Tom Shephard, a well known stock handling expert, when talking to livestock handlers during the course.
Setting out all of the details of how to handle animals in a book of rules is not the best way to get the message across to those working with animals on a day-to-day basis. This is why the series of courses have been organised around this issue.
The important part of the training involves some hands-on experience while being mentored by Tom Shephard. There are a mob of cattle in the yard for the trainees to work with as Tom, guided them through the process of minimising stress and worry for the animals being shifted.
During the day, Tom goes quite deeply into the psychology of the cow and the psychology of the relationship between livestock and human beings, instinctively perceived by cows as predators. He outlines technical information about the eye line and vision of the animals and how moving into different parts of the cattle’s vision will induce different behaviour on the part of the animal.
Many of these factors are well known to people who handle cattle in their line of work, but his explanations give a empirical value to some things which people working with cows already know by instinct. He goes into detail about how herding animals have evolved as pray and that the basic instinct driving most of their behaviour is to escape.
There was also a discussion about the social order within a group of cows. He discussed how when animals are being moved about they end up being formed into different groups and those groups have to re-establish their social order before they can function normally.
Throughout his talk, Tom constantly goes back to the assertion that the calmer an animal is then the more responsive it is to handling, if that handling is done correctly. Cattle are also very aware of their personal space and different types of cattle have different personal spaces, this area can also vary with the number of cattle in the group.