Cows at Pakaderinga feedlot. Credit: Animal Liberation Queensland

Beef cattle feedlots in Australia: everything you need to know


Did you know Australia has about 450 accredited beef cattle feedlots, most of which are located in Queensland (60%) and New South Wales (30%)? Here’s a quick guide on everything you need to know about feedlots in Australia.

Image credit: Animal Liberation Queensland

At any given time, approximately one million cattle (cows and bulls) are farmed on these feedlots, making Australia the second largest beef exporter in the world after Brazil, followed by India and the US.

What exactly is a feedlot?

Feedlots are gated, barren yards where large numbers of cattle are fed a grain-based diet such as barley, wheat and sorghum to make them reach a specific weight before they are slaughtered for beef production.

Animal welfare concerns

A cow’s innate needs for grazing and resting are unable to be met in the typical environment of these confined yard areas. Moreover, the lack of shade structures in many of these feedlots adds to their misery. While the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association strongly encourages the provision of shade structures, it is not an official requirement. As a result, many feedlot cattle do not have access to shade even on extremely hot days or weeks.

Antibiotic use in feedlots

Cattle are ruminants that feed on grass. After arriving at feedlots, they are made to transition from grass feeding to grain feeding so they can put on the required amount of weight.

If this transition is done too quickly, it can lead to serious medical conditions such as acidosis, which in serious cases can result in death. To prevent this, 90% of feedlot cattle are given antimicrobial agents when they first move to a grain-based diet according to Meat & Livestock Australia.

Globally, the overuse of antibiotics has been associated with the rapid rise and spread of ‘superbugs’ that are resistant to the medicines that cure life-threatening illnesses in humans.

Drone flyover of cattle feedlot

Drone image of a cattle feedlot in Queensland. Credit: Farm Transparency Project

Labels: grain fed vs grain fed finished

Cattle who spend an average of 50 to 120 of the final days of their life in a feedlot before being slaughtered are labelled as ‘grain fed’, whereas those who spend a minimum of 35 days are labelled as ‘grain fed finished’.

Environmental concerns

Poor waste management practices in feedlots can cause runoff from animal faeces to contaminate surrounding areas such as neighbouring farmlands and public waters. It also increases the risk of disease spread and environmental damage.

With you by our side, we will continue working towards giving farm animals in Australia and all around the world, a life worth living.

Globally, the overuse of antibiotics has been associated with the rapid rise and spread of ‘superbugs’.

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