Animal welfare on agenda

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Bob GarnantCountryman
Camarri Feedlot co-principal Matt Camarri, of Cundinup, and WALFA president Todd Fatheringhame at the 2021 Better Beef event.
Camera IconCamarri Feedlot co-principal Matt Camarri, of Cundinup, and WALFA president Todd Fatheringhame at the 2021 Better Beef event. Credit: Countryman

Australian Lot Feeders Association president Bryce Camm threw open the door to discussion on the peak cattle body’s shade initiative at the Better Beef event held last Thursday and Friday in Cundinup and Donnybrook.

The initiative, launched in November, builds on the feedlot industry’s already strong commitment to animal welfare and positions the sector for long-term sustainability.

Speaking via pre-recorded video from Queensland to a crowd of 135 at the Camarri family’s feedlot, Mr Camm said it was one of the biggest policy initiatives that ALFA had undertaken since the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme some 26 years ago.

“ALFA is supporting the access to shade for all feedlot cattle to be finished by 2026,” he said.

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“The shade initiative is designed to ensure the protection and ongoing community support of our sector and of the feedlot production system.”

Mr Camm said the initiative would ensure that feedlot operators were satisfied of the five domains of animal welfare, with one being around shelter.

“It’s about reducing and assisting the industry and improving our industry’s resilience to climate variability,” he said.

“This policy will demonstrate the industry’s collective commitment of prioritising the continuing improvement of the cattle under our care.”

Mr Camm said ALFA took a leadership position by rolling out the initiative, which encourages all Australian feedlots to make a pledge to provide cattle under their care with access to shade.

“This is an industry that has proudly governed itself rather than sit back and let government or community organisations drive their own agendas for our industry,” he said.

“This shade initiative will ensure we are at the forefront of managing the shade expectations of the wider community.”

Mr Camm said the ALFA committee looked at where shade would be applicable and not applicable from a risk based scenario.

“The shade initiative belongs beyond the risk based approach,” he said.

“It’s very hard to uniformly and consistently, across the country, use a risk-based tool to demonstrate where shade was required or not.”

Mr Camm said the ALFA committee unanimously adopted its position after discussions with many community minded groups.

“We worked out a timeline and how best to support industry and its operators to undertake this project,” he said.

“We think we have struck the right balance in asking for six years to meet operator’s funding requirements.

“It was felt a 10-year period would be too long to meet the expectations of brand owners and the wider community.

“We know this stretch target will bring new initiative ideas for private operators to decide what is best for their environment.”

WA Lot Feeders Association president Todd Fatheringhame, who runs his family’s feedlot in Karlgarin, said shade infrastructure was expensive without scientific data backing its financial return on investment.

“It’s hard to go to a financial institution without support data — whether we will get a fair return on our money in five or 10 years,” he said.

“Shelter is something we look forward to in the long term, but there is always five other investments to get through that will bring efficiencies from day one.”

Mr Fatheringhame said at this point WALFA did not sense that ALFA had “developed a comprehensive shade policy”, but it encouraged the national body to move forward with the initiative.

“WALFA still believes implementation of a shade policy should be based on risk assessment — this will recognise the significant variation of climate across parts of WA,” he said.

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