Animal Health and Wellbeing
There are a number of animals which you may choose to keep or farm on your rural residential property. These may include cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, chickens (or other fowl), and fish. Other animals of interest that may have specialist commercial markets also include alpacas, llamas, rabbits, ducks, quail, turkeys, and bees. Regardless of whether you are keeping animals for commercial or recreational purposes, all of these animals have special care requirements and can have a significant impact on the environment. It is important to consider the food, water, and care requirements of animals before committing to keeping them on your property. Ensure you have the right equipment (such as fences and mustering yards) for the animals you wish to keep, and that you have sufficient space on your property to keep such animals.
Livestock may also be affected by or spread disease, so property owners need to be aware of livestock health issues. If you have concerns about the health of your livestock or domestic animals—you should seek veterinary advice. The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is a National system for identifying and tracing livestock from their property of birth, through various properties, until they are finally sent to the abattoir. As such, all movements of cattle between properties with different property identification codes must be notified on the NLIS database and all cattle identified with an NLIS device before they are transported. It has been compulsory in NSW since January 2006 to notify all movements on the NLIS database.
Maintaining Property Productivity
Proper management and care of livestock is important, not only for the welfare of the animal, but to help maintain the long-term health, productivity and value of your property. The potential impacts of livestock include:
- Decline in water quality
- Spread of noxious and environmental weeds
- Noise and odours
- Effluent and wastewater pollutants
- Soil compaction and erosion
- Nutrient runoff
Excess nutrients on a property can arise from the overuse of fertilisers and from livestock effluent. When these nutrients enter dams and waterways via water runoff, they can result in water being unsuitable for human or stock consumption. In addition to affecting water quality, animals directly accessing farm dams or waterways can cause significant erosion which may threaten dam or streambank stability.
Excess nutrients and overgrazing of pastures also creates the ideal conditions for invasion by noxious and environmental weeds. Weed species may be imported to your property through contaminated fodder, such as hay or lucerne, or by stock movement amongst paddocks and properties. Numerous noxious and environmental weed species, including Crofton Weed - Ageratina adenophora, Fireweed - Scenecio madagascariensis, and Patersons’ Curse - Echium plantagineum, are not only bad for the environment, but are also known to be toxic to stock.
Generally, impacts of livestock can be minimised when production is undertaken using sustainable methods. Property planning allows you to assess not only the current carrying capacity of your property, but to consider and plan for future times of flood or drought. For example, are you able to access enough water during dry periods, can you manage the waste generated, and can you provide adequate fodder, shelter and fencing?
Maintaining Environmental Health
Maintaining the long term viability and environmental health of your property are closely related. Excluding stock from dams and waterways will help maintain water quality and protect riparian zones. Maintaining soil health through minimising compaction and erosion from livestock will combat weed invasion and improve water quality. Overgrazing of pastures, grazing of native vegetation, and the removal of vegetation to increase pasture can all cause decline in water quality, the loss and degradation of native vegetation and wildlife habitat, as well as a deterioration in soil health arising from compaction and erosion.