Looking After Livestock During Dry Times - Welfare Considerations

28th May 2018

Nigel Brown, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services District Vet - Glen Innes

Most producers work hard to look after their livestock, especially when it’s very dry... but a few don’t. Livestock below a Body Condition Score of 1 (BCS1) could result in animal welfare prosecutions.

Australian society demands high standards of animal welfare regardless of seasonal conditions or type of animal.

When fodder is in short supply, it makes economic sense to start supplementary feeding before animals deteriorate – it’s more expensive to try and reverse weight loss than maintain condition. Similarly, as feed costs rise, it is better to reduce herd or flock numbers before livestock prices fall too far.

When dams dry out, the mud is a death trap from which even healthy animals cannot escape. Fence off dangerous dams, check others daily. Remove carcases to prevent biosecurity risks.

See images of cattle with High Risk 1 and 2 welfare scores as outlined in NSW DPI’s Welfare scoring nutritionally deprived beef cattle, dairy cattle and their crosses, sheep and horses (weblink below). Cattle at High Risk 1 are in critical need of good supplementary feed. They can be transported to the abattoir or agistment but not to the saleyard. Cattle at welfare score High Risk 2 are not fit to travel.

Sheep with a High Risk welfare score can be transported to the abattoir or agistment but not to the saleyard.

The following table looks at some additional aspects of livestock welfare all producers need to bear in mind, especially during tough seasonal conditions.



Prevent increased pain or distress during transport

In-growing horn; udder, vulva or ear cancer; advanced mastitis; blindness in both eyes - do not transport


Do not load animals with signs of severe disease

Exhaustion; panting; animal is not weight-bearing on all 4 legs - do not transport


Late pregnancy

Cattle – last four weeks

Sheep – last two weeks

Transport time should be no longer than four hours for healthy animals but not for animals in poor condition

Seek veterinary advice


Drying dams can be a death-trap

Fence-off dangerous dams; check dams daily


Remove carcases from paddocks

A pit in a fenced-off area with no drainage pollution is best

Please see some useful links below:

For more information contact your nearest Local Land Services office – Inverell on 02 6720 8300, Glen Innes on 02 6732 8800, Armidale on 02 6770 2000 or Tenterfield on 02 6739 1400.

Media contact: Annabelle Monie, Communications Officer – 0429 626 326

Click for larger photo