Japan welfare comparison

A study of the behaviour of Japanese cattle may shed some light on the welfare of cattle in Australian feedlots.

NSW DPI researcher Bob Kilgour, normally based at Trangie, recently travelled to Japan to undertake a study which could deliver some results that may make a big difference to intensive beef production on Australian soil.

One of the major criticisms of feedlots is that the cattle that are raised in them are unable to carry out their normal behaviour.

This criticism is supported by research, which shows that cattle at pasture spend about half of their day walking around the paddock grazing whereas, in feedlots, their feeding and walking time is about half of this.

However, in Japan, the production system is often more intensive than in Australian feedlots.

“A common practice in Japan is to raise cattle in pens,” Mr Kilgour said. “A pen might be only six metres wide by ten long and contain five adult animals or up to twelve yearlings.”

This restricts the movement of the animals to a much greater extent than in Australian feedlots and the study in Japan was aimed at revealing the extent to which animals kept in pens exhibit abnormal behaviour.

Mr Kilgour is seeking to discover the extent of abnormal behaviour as part of a Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) funded study fellowship.

“The reason we are studying the Japanese system is that if we discover abnormal behaviour, we can assume that this is a result of poor animal welfare.

“We can then use this information to determine whether abnormal behaviour exists in Australian production systems.”

The research project is the continuation of a five-year collaboration between Mr Kilgour and researchers from the Veterinary School of the University of Azabu near Tokyo.