Program 2 - Housing and husbandry effects on animal welfare

Confinement of animals, even for short periods that may occur during transport and lairage of farm animals, is a controversial issue. The main welfare concerns raised are inappropriate social contact, the inability to exercise and the restricted choice of stimuli for interaction, such as with conspecifics and other features of the physical environment.
The key focus of this program is to further understand the basic welfare requirements of animals in terms of social, spatial, environmental complexity and climatic requirements. Such knowledge is necessary for designing housing systems, even for short periods as may occur during transport and lairage.
 

Review of the scientific literature and the international pig welfare codes and standards to underpin the future Standards and Guidelines for Pigs

Investigators: P. Hemsworth, L. Hemsworth, R. Acharya, J. Skuse 

Funding: Australian Pork Ltd

Commencement date: 2017

Completion date: 2018

This project will review the scientific literature and examine international codes and standards for the welfare of the pig to inform the review of the current Australian Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Pigs.

 

Hen Welfare Literature Review

Investigators: P. Hemsworth et al

Funding: Australian Eggs

Commencement date: 2018

Completion date: 2019

This project on a peer-reviewed scientific literature of laying hen welfare will be led and co-ordinated by Professors Paul Hemsworth (Project Leader) and Andrew Fisher and Dr Ellen Jongman (Animal Welfare Science Centre, University of Melbourne) with major collaboration from prominent Australian poultry researchers and veterinarians. This review will focus on the main housing, management (at both the farm and stockperson levels) and husbandry practices that have implications for hen welfare (see below). The relevance of the literature in relation to Australian conditions will be emphasised since this review will be used to inform current welfare discussions and the investment in welfare research and development by Australian Eggs into the future.

 

Phasing out of mulesing: cost, benefits and opportunities

Investigators: A. Fisher, C.Munoz

Funding: Meat and Livestock Australia

Commencement date: 2018

Completion date: 2021

This project will examine the benefits and costs of ceasing mulesing in prime lamb systems, while also examining the key drivers for farmer behaviour towards continuation of mulesing prime lambs’ dams, and possible barriers for behavioural change towards mulesing-free systems. These outcomes will inform future extension programs on appropriate approaches to encourage phasing out mulesing in prime lamb enterprises.

 

What causes smothering in commercial free-range laying hens? Part 1

Investigators: P..Hemsworth, E. Jongman

Funding: Australian Eggs

Commencement date: 2018

Completion date: 2020

Epedemiological study to identify main factors associated with the occurrence smothering in free-range systems.

 

Characterisation of the welfare and performance responses of calves to disbudding and castration procedures

Investigators: A. Fisher, K. Stanger, and B. Earley & M. McGee (Teagasc)

Student: G. Marquett

Funding: University of Melbourne / TEAGASC, Agriculture and Food Development Authority of Eire.

Commencement date: 2018

Completion date: 2021

The PhD Fellowship is a joint research project between Teagasc and the University of Melbourne. This research will deliver practical pain management strategies as a part of standard industry practice at the time of disbudding and castration of calves.

 

Developing nutritional strategies for early lactation (First 100 days)

Investigators: B. Wales

Funding: Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

Commencement date: 2017

Completion date: 2023

This project aims to deliver early lactation feeding strategies for individual cows that increase feed intake and peak milk yield, while minimising the incidence of metabolic diseases.

 

Feeding cool cows

Investigators: L. Marett

Funding: Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

Commencement date: 2017

Completion date: 2023

This project will investigate nutritional opportunities to alleviate the impacts of hot weather on animal performance, health and welfare and explore the potential interactions between nutritional and genetic interventions.

 

Dairy farm risk management and industry resilience

Investigators: B. Davidson

Funding: Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

Commencement date: 2017

Completion date: 2020

This project aims to improve dairy farmers application of biosecurity and animal welfare practices in line with codes of practice.

 

Ensuring cow welfare with increasing scale of production

Investigators: A. Fisher

Student: D. Beggs

Funding: Dairy Australia

Commencement date: 2014

Completion date: 2018

This project supports a PhD student who has undertaken on-farm studies to determine relationships between farm characteristics and practices associated with scale of production and animal welfare measures.

 

Human enrichment program for breeding sows: proof of concept

Investigators: P. Hemsworth, L. Hemsworth, R. Morrison

Student: M. Hayes

Funding: CRC for High Integrity Australian Pork

Commencement date: 2017

Completion date: 2018

This experiment is a proof of concept to examine whether or not regular positive human contact is enriching for sows (i.e., leads to a positive affective state) and facilitates stress resilience).

 

Development of commercially-viable enrichment programs for group-housed sows

Investigators: E. Jongman, R. Morrison, P. Hemsworth, R. Parkes

Funding: CRC for High Integrity Australian Pork

Commencement date: 2016

Completion date: 2018

The aim of this project was to determine the effects of environmental enrichment in the form of i) straw, (ii) a ‘Ridley block’, (iii) Lucerne hay, (iv) a wooden block and (v) 1 kg of corn silage in comparison to (vi) a control treatment of no environmental enrichment on sow aggression, injuries, foraging behaviour and reproductive performance.  The commercial-viability of each enrichment sources will be assessed including cost, practicality and effluent management.

 

Improving lamb survival by optimising lambing density 

Investigators: L. Kubeil

Funding: Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

Commencement date: 2016

Completion date: 2018

This study aimed to quantify the effects of flock size and stocking rate on the survival of twin lambs born to Merino or maternal ewes at multiple sites across Australia and New Zealand. Data collected from the Victorian sites will contribute to a larger project which is being conducted across Australia and in New Zealand.

 

Methods of field euthanasia for livestock that preserve brain material 

Investigators: K. Stanger, A. Fisher, T. Jubb, J-L Rault, C. Johnson,

Funding: Meat and Livestock Australia

Commencement date:2017

Completion date: 2018

This project, involving Professor Craig Johnson and colleagues from Massey University in New Zealand, aims to identify a more suitable agent for the euthanasia of livestock for TSE surveillance in Australia.

 

Human-animal relationships in zoos: Optimising animal and visitor experiences

Investigators: P.Hemsworth, G. Coleman, R. Rassool, K. Fanson, K. Butler, M. Magrath, V. Melfi, D. Peake, W. Shaw

Students: S. Chiew (PhD), L. Rehnsberg (PhD), M. Learmonth (PhD), B. Hall (PhD)

Funding: ARC Linkage

Commencement date: 2014

Completion date: 2018

Extensive research on human-animal relationships in agricultural and domestic settings shows that human-animal interaction affects animal behaviour and welfare, which in turn affect human attitudes to animals. As conservation and welfare organisations, zoos aim to provide visitors with opportunities to closely interact with animals to improve visitor experience and conservation outcomes, whilst maintaining good animal welfare. Some visitor interactions may be stressful for some animals creating conflict between animal welfare and visitor experience. By determining visitor effects, this project aims to provide zoos with practical animal management and educational strategies to optimise both animal welfare and visitor experience.

 

Socialisation of greyhounds to optimise their racing success and maximise successful rehoming

Investigators: P. Hemsworth, L. Hemsworth, E. Jongman and G. Coleman

Funding: Greyhound Racing Victoria

Commencement date: 2017

Completion date: 2018

The project aims to determine socialisation practices from birth to the end of the greyhounds’ racing career to optimise their racing (and rehoming) success. The first part of this projectreviews the current scientific literature on effects of ssocialisation and using focus groups understand industry knowledge of and attitudes towards the role of socialisation and current practices in influencing racing success.

 

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