According to a recent article from Beef Central, tail hair tests could soon be used on Australian cattle to objectively measure and assess welfare. These tests are part of a suite of biomarkers set by a new national research consortium that was launched at Beef Australia 2018.
According to QLD Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation professor Dr Allan Tilbrook, “We can take a tail hair of cattle and measure various things like whether or not the animal has been stressed… We can also measure heart rate variability and a whole range of different physiological variables.”
The National Animal Welfare Biomarker Consortium (working title) has been funded by the University of Queensland and Queensland Government. It is a collaboration between the Brisbane-based uni and the University of Newcastle, and also aims to involve other research providers like the CSIRO and other universities in the future.
Research from a 2015 study (commissioned by MLA) identified a potential 3.9 million dollar downside risk for Australia beef industry if it wasn’t able to show and demonstrate a commitment to improving animal welfare.
“The consortium’s objective is to bring together researchers, governments and industry to conduct research to develop practical assessments of animal welfare to demonstrate the state of animal welfare of animals at herd and industry level,” Dr Tilbrook said. He also mentioned the importance of industry being able to provide honest, objective feedback on its progress towards sustainability.
“What we’re about,” Dr Tilbrook said, “is providing objective measures of animal welfare so that we can use these measures to address issues if there are any, and to actually provide honest feedback about the state of animal welfare within the industry…. We need some science to underpin animal welfare, because at the moment we don’t have a good way of doing it.”