At Paraway, we recognise that humane treatment of animals is an ethical responsibility. Additionally, it is also a business issue as good animal welfare leads to better livestock quality and production outcomes. We ensure that the design and management of our production systems consider the welfare of animals on farm and through the supply chain.
Scope and definitions
Our Animal Welfare Policy and disclosure applies to all Paraway employees, contractors, visitors, livestock, enterprises and geographical regions unless explicitly stated otherwise. Our approach and disclosures referencing livestock are specific to the species, livestock classes and geographic regions stated, and are not universal.
For clarity, when the terms “cattle” and “sheep” are used without specifying the livestock class or geographic region, the statement applies to 100% of Paraway livestock in that species. When “livestock” or “animals” is used without additional specification, the statement applies to all (i.e. 100%) Paraway livestock.
Animal Welfare Policy
Paraway’s Animal Welfare Policy ensures that our management of animal welfare is in line with relevant legislation and the Five Freedoms of animals. By providing:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to water and a diet to maintain health and vigour.
- Freedom from day-to-day physical discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and comfortable rest areas.
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to display normal patterns of behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and appropriate company of the animal’s own kind.
- Freedom from unnecessary fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering.
Legislative compliance and the Five Freedoms are seen as the absolute minimum standard at Paraway, and our approach and policy exceed these standards.
The policy details Paraway’s approach to achieving our animal welfare objectives and our monitoring and governance.
The Animal Welfare Policy is reviewed and updated annually. Any changes are presented to the Paraway Board of Directors for approval. All Station Managers and staff are informed of the animal welfare policy as part of their employment induction and following material changes to the policy. Click here to view our Animal Welfare Policy.
Paraway also has a documented whistleblowing policy and procedure enabling staff to report any issues anonymously, triggering an investigation. The outcomes and any corrective actions are reported to the Board of Directors.
Accreditation and external audit
All of Paraway’s livestock enterprises are accredited under the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program, which covers food safety, animal welfare and biosecurity. Under LPA, on-farm systems must be implemented to ensure the handling of livestock is consistent with the requirements of the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for cattle and sheep.
The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines detail responsibilities and set out animals’ needs in relation to feed and water, risk management in extreme weather, natural disasters, disease, injury and predation, facilities and equipment, handling and management/husbandry, breeding management, and humane killing.
For cattle, the Standards and Guidelines also cover castration, dehorning and spaying, calf rearing systems, and beef feedlots.
For sheep, the Standards and Guidelines address tail docking and castration, mulesing, and intensive sheep production systems.
Qualified auditors from AUS-MEAT conduct on-farm audits for LPA. The audit program is overseen by Integrity Systems Company.
|Year||Number of stations externally audited||Non-compliances or corrective actions|
86% of our wool production is certified under the SustainaWOOL (https://sustainawool.com.au/) or Responsible Wool Standard (https://textileexchange.org/standards/responsible-wool/), or both, which certify operational standards associated with animal welfare and environmental stewardship.
Paraway provides staff with training to provide the skills to implement Paraway’s Animal Welfare Policy. Training is dependent on job requirements and can include low stress stock handing and vaccination administration. A training register is maintained to ensure that employees are capable of undertaking the requirements of their role without compromising the welfare of our animals.
New seasonal staff in the northern region undertake a 2-4 day course (experience dependent) in low stress stock handling, facilitated by an experienced external provider.
Research, innovation and communication
Paraway is involved in several research projects and trials aimed at improving animal welfare outcomes. Current and planned projects and trials include:
- Research project on the use of the impact of different transport methods on animal performance (which is highly correlated to welfare).
- Research project on the inclusion of legume species in Northern cattle operations to improve feed conversion and nutrition.
- Genetic and visual selection program at our Pooginook Merino Stud (https://www.facebook.com/PooginookMerino/ www.pooginook.com.au ) with increased focus on traits to eliminate the need for breech modification, producing a more ethical animal to our customers as well as through our internal supply chain.
- Increasing the proportion of polled cattle genetics in the breeding programs through increased European genetics where appropriate (below the tick line) and genetic testing of bulls for homozygous poll selection.
- Development of an animal welfare index to assess animal welfare policy, governance and operational animal welfare metrics, specific to extensive Northern Australian grazing systems.
- Participation in the CSIRO “Welfare benchmarking for pasture-based beef cattle” research project, which aims to create a science-based, data driven tool to benchmark pasture-based beef cattle operations.
Our Pooginook Merino Stud also promotes our higher animal welfare activities through its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PooginookMerino/, and website https://www.pooginook.com.au/why-pgk/our-future including our genetic program for a plainer breech. The stud also holds open days to promote its non-modified breech strategy (details on the Facebook page).
In 2021, Pooginook Manager John Sutherland participated in a webinar which focused on producing a higher welfare merino operation (https://www.pooginook.com.au/events/webinar-no-breech-modification ).
Paraway predominantly operates large scale cattle and sheep stations where livestock are raised in extensive, natural and diverse outdoor environments which allow animals to roam, graze and drink freely, rest, socialise and express natural behaviours. Over 90% of our livestock live in these extensive, natural environments. All our feedlot cattle are provided shade, sufficient space to socialise and rest, and free access to water.
In order to provide our animals with natural environments at scale, our stations are in regional and often remote locations, which require livestock to be transported over long distances. We minimise the stress that this may cause by appropriately preparing our livestock for the journeys and generally locating our internal supply chains within species and breed appropriate travel times. We also ensure that staff responsible for loading livestock are trained is assessing the fitness of livestock for loading.
Welfare at slaughter
Paraway endeavours to ensure that all our livestock are humanely slaughtered by pre-slaughter stunning. While we do not commercially slaughter any of our livestock, we sell a proportion of our livestock to meat processors. Paraway only sells slaughter livestock to processors that stun prior to slaughter. These are licenced animal welfare accredited processors, which are required by law to be stunned. They are independently audited to ensure effective stunning, and this is also confirmed by Paraway staff. For other livestock sales we try, as far as possible to ensure that the livestock will be pre-slaughter stunned by having a detailed understanding of our supply chain and customers. However, many of our livestock are sold live as breeding stock, or for other producers to grow out and we are unable to influence the treatment or slaughter of those animals.
It is expected that when there is a requirement that livestock be euthanised, that it is completed quickly and humanely. Staff are trained how to humanely euthanise livestock in emergency situations.
Targets, objectives and performance metrics
Paraway is committed to ongoing improvement of the welfare of our animals. We review our targets and objectives in line with the availability of new technologies and genetics. Over the next 5 years, an emphasis is being placed on our management procedures as well as genetics to improve welfare outcomes for our livestock. This is being implemented at the station level and overseen by management.
A selection of our objectives and targets is presented below.
Objective – Maintaining our livestock above Board approved minimum body condition scores (BCS)
- Target – 100% above minimum scores each year
- Progress – Achieved
Objective – Use of pre-procedure pain relief for surgical husbandry procedures, including rubber ring castration
- Target – 100% by 2019
- Progress – Achieved in 2020 and 2021
Objective – All livestock staff in northern region trained or assessed to be competent in low stress stock handling
- Target – 100% having received training
- Progress – Achieved in 2020 and 2021
Objective – Livestock (sheep and cattle) at any time that are confinement free, grazing in extensive, natural production systems (excluding drought feeding and seasonal feed gaps)
- Target – 90% of livestock free from confinement
- Progress – Achieved in 2020 and 2021
Objective – No breech modification at our Merino Stud
- Target - In 2018 we made a clear strategy to move the stud towards no breech modification, while maintaining our fleece weight and quality, whilst significantly reducing the breech wrinkle. No time frame was mandated due to the significant animal welfare implications of moving too quickly with structurally inappropriate animals.
- Progress – In 2020, we made the decision to move the Poll Stud to no breech modification. In 2021, we have moved the Horn Stud this way. We have used our scale, extensive data, DNA genomics and know-how on the visuals, to make fast genetic progress reducing the breech wrinkle on our sheep.
Further detail on the implementation of these and other targets and objectives is in our Animal Welfare Policy.
Public disclosure of animal welfare metrics commenced in 2019 and is presented below.
|Animal Welfare Performance Metrics||Results|
|Percentage of any class of cattle within a region below body condition score 2||1%||0%||0%|
|Percentage of sheep in any class at body condition score 1.5 or below||0%||0%||0%|
|Livestock sold to slaughter to independently animal welfare accredited abattoirs and/or Paraway checked to ensure that livestock are pre-slaughter stunned||100%||100%|
|Livestock provided pre-procedure pain relief for essential husbandry procedures (cattle and sheep)||99%||100%|
|Percentage of Paraway livestock that are confinement free1. Free to express natural behaviours in a natural enriched environment2.||98%||99%|
|Percentage of internally transferred animals transported in 8hrs or less||75%||60%|
|Average internal transport times3 (hrs).
|Number of road traffic incidents involving transport of livestock||0||1|
|Animal welfare transparency measured independently by the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW)||Tier 4||Tier 3||Tier 2|
- Excluding drought feeding and seasonal feed gaps
- Natural behaviour includes socialising, exploring, resting, ruminating and the young bonding with mother. Enriched environments also include unrestricted access to water and feed, space to roam and shade.
- Many long duration transport trips include spelling, which splits the trip into shorter segments either side of a rest period. In 2020, trips with spelling were treated as a single journey thereby overestimating the average transport times.
- The increase in transport times in 2020 was due to the good season meaning that there were many more internal sales of sheep.