News & Media

Northern beef research supporting improved animal welfare outcomes

Released on

Released on:
Thursday, 30. September 2021 - 10:00

Research to evaluate the application and effectiveness of pain relief treatments for animal husbandry practises in the northern cattle industry has commenced in Western Australia.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) research project was profiled at the recent Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association’s annual Livestock Handling Cup gathering.

The project is part of the collaborative national Northern Beef project with the Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade and co-investment from the Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Donor Company.

The project is a partnership with industry to improve animal welfare outcomes for routine husbandry procedures and satisfy increasingly discerning market requirements.

Two Producer Demonstration Sites in the Kimberley and another in the Pilbara are hosting the integrated trial to demonstrate the use of two different methods for applying pain relief products and to promote industry best practice animal husbandry.

DPIRD development officer Rach Darwin said the two pain relief methods being examined had been administered to small groups of weaner cattle.

“One product contains an analgesic, antiseptic and adrenaline, which is applied topically to the wound and provides short term relief,” she said.

“The other product is an injection that acts by reducing inflammation, which provides longer lasting pain relief.

“We are assessing the use of each product independently, as well as together and in comparison to a control group over a three week period to determine the best practice strategies for pain relief applications for weaners.”

The animals have been fitted with accelerometers –  small, non-invasive devices attached to an ear tag – that collect information about the animal’s movements.

“The accelerometers will capture changes in the sitting and standing behaviour of the animals, to ascertain their behavioural reaction to animal husbandry practices and use that behaviour as an indicator of the effectiveness of the products,” Ms Darwin said.

“We have also recorded video footage immediately after the treatment was applied to identify animal behavioural responses.”

The accelerometers were recently removed from the animals to analyse and interpret the data.

The research will provide regionally relevant demonstration data across from northern WA, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Preliminary results are expected by the end of the year, which will be shared with industry at future field days and forums.

The trial will be repeated in 2022 to verify and value add to the current experiment.

The research will complement another Northern Beef project about to start to examine the use of phosphorus supplements to boost cattle performance and productivity.

The projects are part of DPIRD’s Northern Beef Development initiative to increase the adoption of industry best practice to optimise productivity and profitability in the northern beef industry.

The team works closely with the Future Beef project, which is a tropical beef collaboration between Meat and Livestock Australia and the primary industry departments of the northern states.

Woman patting a cow's head.
DPIRD Northern Beef development officer Rach Darwin inspects an animal involved in a new research project evaluating the animal welfare outcomes from pain relief treatments.

Media contacts:

Megan Broad/Katrina Bowers, media liaison                        

+61 (0)8 9368 3937