Feedlot deaths stun Australian cattle industry

By Boyd Champness

STRICTER rules for southern Australias feedlot industry are expected following the deaths of 1250 cattle worth up to A$1.4 million (540,000) at Riverina on the border of New South Wales and Victoria.

The deaths, which occurred at the end of last month, have been attributed to heat stress, with temperatures in the low 30°Cs (85-95°F) and extreme humidity levels of about 85%.

Within 24 hours, 1250 cattle had died. It is not known if the cattle were under shade.

Prime City feedlot owner Australian Meat Holdings has remained tight-lipped about the incident, but is helping the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty against Animals (RSPCA) with its investigations.

The Australian Lot Feeders Association has also launched its own investigation and it is unknown whether the feedlot operators will face legal action.

A veterinary source suggested to The Weekly Times that the cattle could have “melted” from a combination of high humidity and extra fat.

ALFA feeder cattle and animal health committee chairman Duncan Rowland told The Weekly Times that the industry was still counting the cost of the disaster.

“Its more than an economic loss. Its been costly in terms of the wider perception of the feedlot industry,” he told the newspaper.

“We (ALFA) will be looking at the feedlot code of practice to see if changes need to be made.”

Mr Rowland said the issue of adequate shade is covered in the industrys code of practice. However, it is only mandatory in intensive operations where there are 750 hours a year when the temperature exceeds 33°C (91.4°F).

The Riverina does not fall into this category, but this would be one of the issues covered in the review, he told the newspaper.

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