Animal welfare research for northern beef in top gear

Animal welfare research for northern beef in top gear


Scientists on a soapbox talk everything from dehorning to cattle ticks at NBRUC.


FROM dehorning wounds to insecticidal fly tags, the latest in animal welfare research for the northern cattle industry was on the agenda at this year's Northern Beef Research Update Conference.

Held in Brisbane, the event attracted a record 350-plus delegates and one of the highlights was a soapbox session where researchers gave mini-presentations of work they currently had under the spotlight.

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Scientists in the livestock sector with the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Resources kicked the well-attended animal welfare session off.

Technical officer Melissa Wooderson, Katherine, outlined research demonstrating that infections from dehorning wounds were reflected in much lower live weight gain in calves.

A study followed 85 Droughtmaster recently-weaned heifers in which 46 were dehorned and compared to a group of 39 naturally polled animals. Six of the 46 developed an infection, most of which were noted a week after dehorning.

In just over two months, the polled animals gained 13 kilograms on average, the dehroned group with no infection gained 7.9kg and those that did develop an infection were down 6kg.

Ms Wooderson said the observed post-dehorning infection rate of 13% was consistent with earlier research.

More than three million calves of all ages are dehorned annually in northern Australia, for reasons including worker safety when handling cattle, reduced injury to other animals, less carcass bruising and to meet market specifications, she said.

The study concluded that although observable exudation from infections may resolve quickly, it was likely there was continuing infection and healing within the frontal sinuses.

Insecticidal fly tags and growth

Fellow NTDPIR beef production systems researcher Tim Schatz, Darwin, reported on an experiment to determine the effect of a new type of insecticidal fly tag on growth. The tags are a sustained-release, plastic ear tag containing a synergized formulation of Zetacypermethrin, an enriched S-isomer pyrethroid compound and Abamectin, which have not previously been used in combination on cattle.

After 16 weeks the average live weight gain of tagged cattle was 9.8kg more than the control group, so the growth rate was 0.085 kg/day higher.

Live weight gain was 16.7kg (or .095 kg/day) higher in tagged cattle over the extended 25 week period.

This was similar to the increase as a result of repeated spraying with insecticide reported in earlier research, Mr Schatz said.

The increase in live weight gain was worth $48.43/head at the cattle price of $2.90/ kg. The cost of the fly tags was $7 per head so the return on investment was 692pc, assuming the difference in weight gain persists through to the time of sale.

Paraboss for cattle

Meanwhile, a new website to assist with the control of ticks, flies, lice and worms in cattle is in the making.

With expertise in parasitology being lost due to an aging workforce and reduced extension capabilities, beef industry service providers have joined forces to consolidate existing knowledge.

Paraboss is a Meat & Livestock Australia-funded project being created through a Queensland Government, University of Queensland and University of New England collaboration and is currently half way to completion.

More than $350 million is lost annually by the Australian cattle industry due to parasitic diseases.

Research scientist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Jess Morgan said in the north, cattle ticks and buffalo fly were the big ticket items while in the south worms were more the issue.

The aim of Parraboss was to provide online advice at any time, she said. It will consist of around 300 pages of content, prepared by both national and international experts.

"The content covers the biology of parasites and treatment and management in different parts of Australia," Ms Morgan said.

The site will also provide direction on programs to better guide pesticide use to lower the build-up of resistance.

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