Mortality is the principal welfare indicator used within the Australian livestock export industry, but as
this only measures extreme events, there is a need for additional indicators. This report describes the results of a study to identify potential welfare indicators for sheep and cattle transported by ship and amassed at pre-export assembly depots that can be used to measure less extreme welfare events.
This report describes the results of a study to identify potential welfare indicators for sheep and cattle transported by ship and amassed at pre-export assembly depots that can be used to measure less extreme welfare events.
Stage 1 - Survey of Industry Opinion
A survey of stakeholders in the industry was conducted to evaluate their opinion of welfare indicators for shiptransported sheep and cattle, and sheep and cattle at pre-export assembly depots. Eighteen indicators were initially identified in consultations with two nominees of each identified stakeholder group (government officials, animal welfare representatives, animal scientists, stockmen, producers/pre-export assembly depot operators, exporters/ship owners and veterinarians). A total of 140 stakeholders completed the disk-based questionnaire, 48% of the total number of stakeholders invited to partake. The order of their declining preference for indicators (and importance values) was mortality (8.6%), clinical disease incidence (8.2%), respiration rate (6.8%), space allowance (6.2%), ammonia (6.1%), weight change (6.0 %), wet bulb temperature (6.0 %), time in assembly depot, (5.4%), proportion of animals hospitalised (5.4%), fodder intake (5.2%), stress-related metabolites (5.0%), proportion of feeding trough utilised (5.0%), injuries (4.8%), proportion of animals able to access the feeding trough at any one time (4.8%), proportion of animals lying down (4.7%), cortisol (4.5%), noise (3.9%) and photoperiod (3.4%). The results identify potential new welfare indicators for exported livestock that can be used to direct research efforts effectively.
Stage 2 - The effect of gaseous ammonia on the health and welfare of sheep & cattle
Exposing livestock to high ammonia concentrations was perceived by stakeholders in the live export industry to be compromising their welfare. Ammonia and other potentially noxious gases were monitored on two sheep voyages on the same ship from Australia to the Middle East and in one sheep assembly depot.