Cattle code of practice

The code of practice about cattle is a mandatory code under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. It contains the minimum acceptable standards of animal welfare for cattle. It applies to all ages and types of cattle, whether kept commercially or as a hobby.

The code provides clear minimum standards of care including veterinary care and adequate provision of food, water and shelter which achieve a reasonable balance between the welfare of animals and the interests of people whose livelihood is dependent on animals.

It addresses husbandry procedures such as castration, spaying, dehorning and tail docking as well as regulating practices such as tethering animals and the use of dogs to manage cattle.

The code of practice about cattle is based on the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle (cattle standards) agreed by State and Territories in 2016. The cattle standards were developed in full consultation with animal industries, animal welfare groups, and relevant state and federal government bodies.

The code of practice about cattle:

  • provides for humane and considerate treatment of cattle, and the use of good husbandry practices to improve the welfare of cattle in all types of cattle farming enterprises
  • informs all people responsible for the care and management of cattle about their responsibilities
  • sets a minimum industry standard by defining acceptable cattle management practices.

The code of practice is not a comprehensive manual on how to care for cattle and does not provide detailed information such as diets or animal health regimes.

Key mandatory requirements for the welfare of cattle

Below are some key mandatory requirements listed in the code of practice about cattle; however, you must refer to the code for the full list of requirements.

  • Use appropriate pain relief when castrating or dehorning cattle. Pain relief is not mandatory if cattle are less than 6 months old, or less than 12 months old and castrated or dehorned at their first yarding.
  • Use appropriate pain relief when performing the flank approach for spaying or webbing of cattle.
  • Take reasonable actions to ensure the welfare of cattle from extremes of weather (temperature or climatic conditions that individually or in combination are likely to predispose cattle to heat or cold stress), fires, floods, disease and injury.
  • Muzzle dogs when moving calves less than 30 days old that are not with cows.
  • Only use an electrical prod on cattle if they are 3 months of age or older. The cattle must be able to move away from the prod and the prod must be applied as sparingly as possible. The prod must not be applied to the face, udders, anus or genitals of the cattle.
  • Only tether cattle if they are given reasonable opportunity to exercise off the tether at least once each day and they have sufficient space to stand up, lie down and move around for grazing.
  • Only disbud calves using caustic chemicals if the calf is less than 14 days of age and the calf is not wet, is segregated from its mother for 4 hours after the treatment, and the calf is kept dry for 12 hours after the treatment.

Dairy management

  • Inspect lactating dairy cows at least once a day to assess the welfare of the cow.
  • Ensure dairy cows kept on a feed pad have access to a well-drained area for resting.

Beef feedlots

  • Ensure cattle kept in a beef feedlot have a minimum floor area of 9m2 for each standard cattle unit (equivalent of 600kg live body weight) in the feedlot.
  • Ensure cattle in a feedlot are inspected daily to assess their welfare.
  • The owner or operator of a beef feedlot must complete an annual risk assessment about the risk of heat stress at the feedlot and establish, implement and maintain a risk management system to manage the ongoing risk of heat stress.

Duty of care to cattle

Anyone who owns, manages or handles cattle may have a legal duty of care and be responsible for ensuring acceptable welfare standards for cattle in their charge.

This includes:

  • cattle owners (commercial and non-commercial)
  • stock managers
  • stock handlers
  • contractors
  • saleyard agents
  • breeders
  • veterinarians
  • processors
  • transporters
  • agistors
  • agistees and lessees.

Animal welfare for bobby calves

A bobby calf is a calf less than 30 days old that is without its mother.

The compulsory code of practice for transport of livestock (the transport code) protects the welfare of bobby calves. The transportation of bobby calves must comply with the transport code.

Under the transport code, bobby calves must be:

  • fed within 6 hours of loading
  • protected from heat and cold stress
  • given sufficient space to lie down during transport
  • provided with bedding during transport if less than 5 days old
  • handled without using electric prodders.

The transport code also limits how long bobby calves can spend in transit. The maximum journey time is 6 hours for calves that are less than 5 days old. For calves 5–30 days old, the maximum journey time is 12 hours. Bobby calves can only be transported within these time frames.

Other welfare codes relevant to cattle

Anyone involved in transporting cattle must comply with the compulsory code of practice for transport of livestock.

More information on the appropriate care and handling of cattle is contained in the code of practice for livestock at depots and saleyards and livestock at slaughtering establishments.

Those involved in feral animal control should be familiar with the code of practice for the destruction or capture, handling and marketing of feral livestock animals.

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