As new animal welfare guidelines come into effect it’s been clear to West Australian vet Peter Letchford that herd management in his home state needs to improve if pastoralists are going to keep up with the times.
While Dr Letchford, who has 20 years of industry experience, said that most pastoralists follow standard guidelines there were some who slid through the cracks.
“As an industry, we need to be managing our herds better so that we can perform these procedures [dehorning] at the appropriate age,” Dr Letchford told the ABC.
“It should be something that we are doing voluntarily because it’s what market forces are requesting.
“We need to be putting management practices into place that are enabling us to meet those expectations.”
New guidelines for dehorning are on the horizon, developed by Animal Health Australia. Dr Letchford says they are set to roll out across the nation but the area in which he works—north of WA—could pose a problem. He said that in remote areas, like the Kimberley, pastoralists often face challenges that could make the new practices hard to implement.
“But as I said, we need to be working towards that [compliance] and looking at ways of managing our herds in appropriate time frames,” said Letchford. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s a direction we’re moving in.”
Dr Letchford would like to see pain management made a priority, noting that dehorning practices—whether correct to guidelines or not—could be quiet painful to cattle. Following a better set of pain management processes could be a better key to careful dehorning than generic guidelines created for export purposes.
“I don’t understand why they’re [the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority] dragging their heels; products like Tri-Solfen will improve the welfare of the animal,” said Letchford. “It’s just not legally available to us at the moment [for] cattle.”