If you’ve ever admired cows grazing on lush green pasture, you’ll know that these animals get great satisfaction from chowing down on grass.
Feedlots are commonly used in farming worldwide, including in Australia. Most people realise that feeding animals grass is preferable – however, some people don’t know the true issues that come with removing an animal from their natural state.
What is a feedlot?
The word ‘feedlot’ refers to a restricted and confined area in which cattle are held and fed for the purpose of production, according to the Primary Industries and Regions of South Australia (PIRSA) (formerly Primary Industries and Resources of South Australia). According to the guidelines for feedlots, they also do not allow cattle access to an area in which they can graze daily, a practice described as “intensive animal keeping” by PIRSA.
Impact on animal health
Aside from the fact that cattle are naturally meant to graze on grass for the majority of their food, there are plenty of other negative health impacts that come with feedlotting.
Animals are more prone to conditions such as ‘heat stress’, according to the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. This condition occurs when the animal cannot control their body heat and can cause excessive levels in body temperature. This can result in death if not monitored properly.
On top of this, the Animal Welfare Institute of the United States (AWI) states animals are also at risk of conditions such as acidosis (“bovine heart burn”), feedlot bloat and liver abscesses.
Animals aren’t the only ones who could suffer as a result of feedlots – the effect on the environment is also a concern. The AWI states that growing and transporting grain can create huge energy and oil costs. In addition, growing enough grain to feed animals kept in feedlots can also use lots of chemical fertiliser. Artificial fertilisers are not only directly harmful to the environment, but can also use energy from fossil fuels in its production.
In comparison, organic, family farming utilises eco friendly, organic methods of farming and lets animals live the way they should – it’s a win-win for everyone!