Meat & Livestock News

MLA Introduces Comprehensive Guide on Covered Housing Systems for Australian Feedlots

Aerial view of poultry farm among forest

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has unveiled a comprehensive manual tailored for Australian lot feeders, offering insights into the various options and considerations surrounding covered housing systems.

This initiative comes in response to the growing interest in covered and partially covered housing systems, spurred by climatic variability and the industry’s shade and shelter initiative.

The ‘MLA Best Practice Design and Management Manual for Covered and Partially Covered Housing Systems’ was introduced by Dr Matt Van der Saag, Project Manager – Feedlot & Sustainability at MLA, during the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association’s (ALFA) SmartBeef event in Tamworth, NSW. Dr Van der Saag highlighted that the manual amalgamates global best practices for these systems and insights from visits to operational covered housing systems in Australia.

It encompasses various aspects, including design, construction, bedding, manure management, welfare standards, animal health considerations, and a comparative analysis of costs between shaded and unshaded feedlot pens.

The Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) has indicated that nearly 70% of feedlot cattle capacity in Australia already benefits from shade or shelter. There’s a rising trend towards integrating solid, waterproof roofing, either partially or entirely over the pens.

The manual’s development was informed by site visits across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania, where covered or partially covered facilities are in use.

In addition to the manual, MLA and ALFA organised two ‘Going Under Cover’ events in 2023, targeting the feedlot sector. These events, held in Western Australia and Victoria/South Australia, aimed to promote the adoption of shade and shelter in Australian feedlots. 

hey showcased various feedlots that have integrated shelters and highlighted the productivity and animal welfare benefits derived from such systems.

Dr Van der Saag emphasised the manual’s utility in providing design guidance tailored for Australian conditions. It also delves into welfare standards, animal health considerations, regulatory approvals required across different states, and a detailed discussion on costs.

He stated, “This manual is a pivotal resource for those considering modifications or construction of feedlots. The potential benefits of covered housing systems for cattle are substantial.”

Feedlots that have adopted fully covered shade systems have reported multiple benefits. These include enhanced animal welfare, improved feed efficiency, cleaner cattle ready for slaughter, and meat quality enhancements.

Moreover, shaded feedlots offer better working conditions for staff, especially during the hotter months.

For those interested in accessing the full ‘MLA Best Practice Design and Management Manual for Covered and Partially Covered Housing Systems’, it is available here.