About the cattle welfare code

The Australian Model code of practice for the welfare of animals: cattle (2nd edition) is a voluntary code under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. It contains information and guidelines to provide 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 promotes agreed animal welfare standards for cattle by defining acceptable cattle management practices, and encouraging considerate and efficient treatment and handling of cattle in all types of production systems.

It has been developed in full consultation with animal industries, animal welfare groups, and relevant state and federal government bodies. It is one of a series of national animal welfare codes for livestock. The current code (2nd edition) was published in 2004.

Aspects of the cattle welfare code

The cattle code aims to:

  • promote 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
  • inform all people responsible for the care and management of cattle about their responsibilities
  • set a minimum industry standard by defining acceptable cattle management practices.

The code covers the animal welfare aspects of:

  • basic needs of cattle
  • intensive cattle systems
  • artificial rearing of calves
  • cattle handling facilities, mustering and yarding
  • management practices
  • health
  • agistment
  • feral cattle
  • humane destruction of cattle.

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

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. From 31 January 2014, 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 timeframes.

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 animal welfare codes for animals at 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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