To: Animal Welfare Advisory Committee: Improving the Welfare of Animals in Victoria

Made: 5 October 2016

We support policies that improve animal welfare while at the same time significantly improving the management and condition of waterways and wetlands. The following submission is made  to support the development of virtual fencing devices.

EFN welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee’s review of animal welfare in Victoria, and it’s Draft Action Plan.
We support changes to the law that would facilitate the use of virtual fencing technology. The advantages of virtual fencing compared to the traditional electric or barbed wire fence  are:

  • Flexibility in the application of grazing to better take account of season conditions, weed growth, and land capability
  • Environmental protection, particularly waterways and wetlands
  • Improved downstream water quality
  • Improved farm animal welfare
  • Industry productivity and profitability

One such system is eShepherd, based on technology developed and tested by the CSIRO and being commercialised by Melbourne-based firm Agersens. The technology applies to all farm livestock although the first release will be focused on dairy and beef cattle.
We understand that Agersens is providing a submission which describes the CSIRO technology in detail, associated research and evidence base (including animal welfare studies) and regulatory changes required to enable Victoria to benefit from this advanced agricultural technology.

The ability of a farmer to create a virtual fence or to herd animals using a collar that trains animals to recognise and stay within virtual boundaries gives a powerful land management tool.  The ability also of such a collar (containing sensors that record data about each animal and communicates back to the farmer’s phone or tablet) to alert the farmer to any health or production issues for each individual animal multiplies its value.

Our comments relate to:

Action 1.1 Animal welfare legislation in Victoria is contemporary

We support the Draft Action Plan’s emphasis on creating contemporary laws which reflect “advances in research, science and technology” – and its acknowledgment that being proactive about animal welfare “may also yield significant social, cultural and economic benefits for Victoria”. It will also lead to major environmental and biodiversity benefits.

We recommend changing the law to facilitate the use of fenceless farming technology backed by animal welfare evidence.

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