Feedlots are purpose-built facilities where livestock are provided with a balanced grain-based diet to help them reach their quality potential. All aspects of their welfare are planned and monitored by trained staff in this highly-regulated industry.
In Australia, most cattle begin their lives in a paddock, grazing on high-fibre grasses and pasture. After spending most of their lives in a pasture-based environment, about one third of the cattle herd are transitioned to a feedlot, where they’re fed a nutritious grain-based diet that provides the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, fibre, minerals and vitamins for optimum growth.
This enables the industry to supply beef of a consistent quality all year round, regardless of environmental conditions. It also means that beef can be produced with less land and less water. Additionally, cattle on grain-based diets at feedlots reach their ideal weights more quickly than they would on grass. Less time on grass results in a measurable reduction in carbon emissions.
Almost four per cent of Australian cattle are in feedlots at any given time, with livestock spending an average of 50-120 days in a feedlot, depending on their breed and consumer tastes for qualities such as marbling.
The Australian feedlot industry is very important to the Australian economy. In 2017, the industry contributed $4.4 billion to gross domestic product and over 30,000 jobs with most feedlots family-owned businesses committed to ensuring animal wellbeing:
For grainfed beef producers, it’s essential that livestock are well cared for from the time they arrive at the feedlot to the time they leave. Ensuring good animal health and wellbeing in feedlots means that livestock are:
Feedlots are also proactive when it comes to protecting livestock from heat stress via the installation of shade structures and additional water troughs, or altered bedding and manure and waste management practices that to help mitigate the effects of hot weather on cattle.
Feedlots in Australia are highly regulated and independently audited. They must follow regulations mandated by federal, state and territory animal welfare, environment, waste and planning legislation.
In addition, the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme provides a further layer of strict requirements on feedlots, ensuring quality standards are met across animal welfare, traceability and food safety, environmental standards and product quality. Accreditation is needed for meat being officially marketed as ‘grain fed’ in both domestic and overseas markets. Over 400 feedlots (the majority of feedlots in Australia) are accredited under the Scheme.