Rayner Reckons

Jun 23

Keeping out of the cold

Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How do you cope with cold weather?  Some people seem to cope better with cold weather.  After working in the New England region of NSW for many years, I don't mind the cold too much.  I find that I can always put on some extra clothes, find a pair of gloves and even resort to a fleece lined hat for those cold bleak days!  And on the days when it is too cold, wet or miserable to be outside, there are always things to do inside to stay out of the cold.

However, for your livestock, the cold is an entirely different matter.  Livestock are impacted by cold weather, and if cold conditions are accompanied by some rain and wind, the impacts can be fatal.

Many people think sheep are the animals that are the most susceptible to the impact of cold.  However cattle can be just as susceptible.  

Several years ago I was told by a producer about an experience where some cattle were imported from a station in north Queensland to the New England.  These cattle were brahmans just older than weaner age.  The day after they arrived a snow event occurred and sadly some animals couldn't cope and died.  

So cold conditions, wet weather, wind can all combine to have devastating impacts on your animals.  And unlike the northern hemisphere, bringing animals inside is not really possible in Australia.

Can livestock cope with cold weather?  The answer is they certainly can.  The process of rumination does help them cope, as the rumination process releases plenty of heat that helps the animal stay a bit warmer.  The other things that help animals cope are the condition that the animals are in.  Livestock in average or better fat scores will cope more easily than lean or low fat scored animals.  

Animals that are at risk are those that are in low condition. Young animals and older wake animals are also at risk, as are lactating animals or sheep fresh off shears.

So how can you help your animals cope with the cold?  There are a few things you can do.  These include:

  • Provide hay for your livestock.  Hay is slower to digest, which means the rumen will produce more heat as digestion occurs.  This is especially important when the paddock feed is limited.
  • Put animals in sheltered paddocks.  If you have ever been in a paddock sheltered by some trees you will know the difference in temperature, particularly getting out of the wind.  Grazing your stock in sheltered paddocks, with timber or protections that can reduce the wind chill will make a big difference to your animals.
  • Avoid importing livestock from environments that not as cold!  Livestock need some time to adjust to a new environment.  They may not eat the new pastures, may be unhappy after transport and may have had time to explore their new home in time to find the sheltered paddocks or places in the paddock.  Being hungry, cold and stressed places these animals at risk, and if they are young, weak or light in condition, the cold is a real threat.
  • Draft your herd into fat scores.  Its always good management to draft your herd so that you have them in similar weights and fat scores.  The low conditioned animals, and the lighter ones need to be given particular care at the best of times, but during cold, this care is particularly important.  These are the animals that should have first option for shelter and definitely need your attention.

Fortunately the cold weather in Australia doesn't last for too long.  Snow is an occasion and doesn't bury pastures for months on end.  The big risks are the cold windy days as cold fronts sweep up from the Antarctic.  I reckon we are also fortunate in knowing when these events are on the way, so there is time to plan ahead.  I reckon if cold is an issue for your stock, you need to think if you can help them cope more easily with hay and shelter.  And if you are thinking of purchasing or moving a few animals onto your place, I reckon if you can consider the traditional impact on cold and determine if it is the best time for your region and for your animals to do that movement.

If you're happy with all that, and you've helped your animals cope as well as they can, I reckon you've earned some time inside by the fire!

Jul 31

How familiar are you with your obligations to ensure animals are transported safely and appropriately? Its an interesting questions to ask producers or livestock agents.  Sometimes the response I get to that question is a blank look or even a comment that its up to the truckie!  In actual fact, anyone responsible for the care and management of livestock has an obligation to know the current standards and adhere to them.

Its called the chain of obligation, and it starts with the owner of the animal and ends with the final receiver of the livestock.  Anyone along the way, be it the agent, truck driver, staff at the sale yard, feedlot, depot or processor is included in the chain. So its important you make yourself familiar with the current national standards. 

The current Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock are the basis for a national consistent framework regarding standards and responsibilities associated with ensuring welfare of animals is maintained.  

The national standards and guidelines cover alpacas; buffalo; camels, cattle, deer, emu, goats, horses, poultry, pigs, ostriches and sheep.  

There are general guidelines that apply to all animals.  Having read through these standards, I reckon they provide a logical progression for anyone who will be responsible for transporting animals.  

The general standards include recommendations for:

  • Responsibilities & planning

  • Stock Handling competency 

  • Transport vehicles and facilities for livestock

  • Pre transport selection of livestock

  • Loading, transporting and unloading livestock

  • Humane destruction

Each of these points addresses important considerations for every person who is responsible for the animal.  

This includes questions such as;  are the animals fit to load?  There are useful pointers for the suppliers of animals selecting animals and assembling them for transport as well as identifying the responsibilities for sac section of the chain of responsibility.

As well as these general standards, the document addresses the specific requirements for transporting animals of each species.  These standards cover important issues such as loading densities; transportation of pregnant animals; suitability of vehicles for different species and tim of feed or water.

Transporting animals is something that everyone involved in agriculture will have to do at some stage to other.  

Having the national standards in place means we re all working to the same standard and working to consistently achieve the best welfare standards for our animals.

I reckon its definitely essential you download a copy of the standard and become familiar with its standards and recommendations.  

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