Agisting livestock

Page last updated: Friday, 1 February 2019 - 10:47am

Agistment is an option for removing livestock from a property, for a number of reasons – after a fire, when paddock feed is inadequate, to spell pastures, or to finish livestock for sale on better feed.

Asking questions before agisting stock is likely to benefit their health and welfare in the long term, even if there may be considerable pressure to quickly move stock off an affected property because of lack of feed or water, and limited or non-existent containment areas or handling facilities.

Make sure livestock are fit to travel before making any arrangements

If there are any doubts about the health or ability of stock to cope with being transported, a vet should assess them, or they should not be transported. See Animal Welfare for more information. Note that moving livestock off the property is covered by legislation.

Visit the agistment property before signing an agreement

Get to know the owner or manager of the agistment property, and check:

  • fencing in the agistment paddocks
  • feed available in the paddocks and any change of diet problems
  • freedom from disease, pests and weed problems
  • water quality and quantity
  • yards, stock handling facilities and unloading/loading arrangements.

You will want a written agistment agreement

To protect both parties, get a written agreement that specifies:

Biosecurity and agistment

The aim of biosecurity is to limit the introduction of new pests, diseases or weeds onto the agistment or the home property.

We recommend that you make use of the practical information on the Farmbiosecurity website – part of the Farm Biosecurity Program, a joint initiative of Animal Health Australia (AHA) and Plant Health Australia (PHA).

Who is responsible for the livestock while on agistment?

Clearly establish who will be responsible for the day-to-day husbandry of the animals. Ideally, sign a written agistment agreement with the agister, that clarifies all responsibilities:

  • who will check the animals each day
  • who is responsible for providing supplementary feed if necessary
  • who is responsible for providing or organising for any treatment required by stock
  • the time commitment of people offering agistment
  • how to manage unintended matings leading to inadvertent pregnancies in stock
  • who is the preferred vet in case stock become unwell or are injured during their time on the agistment property
  • the responsibility for all costs associated with the agistment, including biosecurity requirements.

Protecting agisted livestock from diseases

Prevent potential disease spread when agisting someone’s stock or seeking agistment for one's own stock.

To protect agisted stock, and other stock on the same property:

  • request and provide as much information about the health of the stock as possible before agistment
  • confine livestock from different properties to specific paddocks, or at a minimum, quarantine introduced animals in specific paddocks until their disease status is known.

Some specific diseases or pests that could be introduced into a herd/flock during agistment are:

Ovine Johne’s disease (OJD)

Flocks or properties known to be infected with OJD are not quarantined in WA, and owners should declare their status when entering into an agistment agreement.

OJD has a long incubation period, and it is not practical to quarantine sheep for the period to ensure they do not have OJD. If there is concern that the sheep may have OJD, confine them to one paddock and get independent veterinary advice to assess the risk. See managing the risk of ovine Johne's disease for more information.

Virulent footrot

In Western Australia, flocks known to have virulent footrot are quarantined. Where movement off the property is required on welfare grounds, contact the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to arrange an emergency permit.

Agisted sheep may not be showing signs of lameness, but have the potential to carry the bacteria that causes virulent footrot on their feet. If there is any risk of agisted sheep carrying virulent footrot, keep them separate from other sheep on the property. See managing virulent footrot in sheep and goats in Western Australia for more information.

Lice

All livestock species are susceptible to their own particular species of lice. Sheep lice, in particular, may prove difficult and costly to eradicate once established in a flock. Lice are difficult to detect by inspecting sheep with a light infestation. To ensure that lice do not spread to other mobs of sheep, keep the mobs separate during the agistment period. See lice infestations on cattle and prevent sheep lice with biosecurity and planning for more information.

Intestinal parasites

We advise that you drench stock as they arrive at the agistment property (i.e. during their quarantine period) and again on their return home. See the Wormboss website for more information.

Feeding agisted livestock

Introduce supplementary feeding to agisted stock gradually. Prevent grain overload (acidosis) by introducing grain at the recommended rate. The safest feed for all classes of stock on arrival is good quality hay.

Cattle – especially when hungry or introduced to new pastures – are particularly susceptible to grazing toxic plants. We recommend feeding hay to agisted stock before turning into new pastures, and then monitor the animals closely. See supplementary feeding and feed budgeting for sheep and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries beef cattle feeding and nutrition page for more information.

Recording livestock movements when agisting

All livestock owners within WA must be registered and their stock identified in accordance with the legislation.

Record any movement of cattle, sheep or goats (one or more animals) – except for horses – between properties with different Property Identification Codes (PICs) on the NLIS database. You will also need to complete a waybill and send it with the animals.

You must register a separate PIC (use the change of address/details form) for the agistment property that agists animals with your brand, and transfer stock on the NLIS database.

DPIRD Livestock Biosecurity staff can assist with property identification codes (PICs) and NLIS database questions.

Acknowledgement: Some of the content was adapted from Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries publications.

Contacts

Livestock biosecurity contacts