Animal welfare during dry times

Animal welfare considerations are critical when managing stock during dry times, when feed and water resources are under pressure.

Helping stock owners

With much of the state in drought or approaching drought, stock owners across NSW need to make decisions to effectively manage their stock.

Your livestock and other farm animals are your responsibility and it is up to you to plan and prepare for their welfare. By being proactive and making decisions early, you will help ensure good animal welfare outcomes and compliance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA).


Understand your circumstances and the options available to you. Seek help and consider expert advice on seasonal conditions, feed, fodder and stock market prices.

Act early

Early intervention ensures good animal welfare outcomes.

  • Prepare a stock management plan to outline arrangements and support early intervention.
  • Develop plans around destocking, stock movement and transport where required. Contact your Local Land Services (LLS) for more information.
  • Review feeding and fodder strategies. Contact your Local Land Services (LLS) for more information.
  • Develop pasture grazing plans. Implement sacrifice paddocks to protect new pastures and ground cover across the property.
  • Implement business planning and strategic thinking in consultation with your bank, accountant or financial planner. Refer to Droughthub for more information.

Be aware

Legal obligations

You have a legal responsibility to get it right. It is an offence not to ensure the welfare of your animals. The welfare of animals in NSW, including farm animals and pets, is protected under POCTA and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulation. POCTA allows stock to be seized and disposed (by way of sale or otherwise) in the event that an animal is in distress, or is likely to become distressed, because it has not been provided with necessary veterinary treatment, or proper and sufficient food, drink or shelter and where the owner does not comply with directions to improve the welfare of the stock. Penalties may also apply.

Moral obligations

Your livestock and other farm animals are your responsibility and it is up to you to plan and prepare for their welfare.

Seek help

Help is available to ensure you get the right advice.

  • Animal welfare assistance - As part of the NSW Government’s drought package, subsidies are available to provide transport assistance for animal welfare and donated fodder.
  • Wellbeing - A range of services are available to support the wellbeing of NSW primary producers and their families. If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s mental health, visit your GP or call the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 for advice.
  • Information - NSW DPI provides information specifically developed for primary producers preparing for dry seasons and drought conditions including practical advice on seasonal conditions, pest and weed management and livestock management. Information and support is also available through your Local Land Services (LLS).
  • Finance - A number of long-term low interest loans and financial support measures are available from the NSW and Commonwealth governments.
  • Skills and training - As part of the NSW Government’s Dought Strategy, the Farm Business Skills Professional Development Program supports farm businesses in all conditions, particularly in relation to preparing for and responding to drought. Access is also provided to vocational training and farm business planning.

For more information on the vast range of services and support available to primary producers, their families and communities, please visit DroughtHub.

Transport roles and responsibilities

Managing the animal welfare risk factors is a shared responsibility between all people involved in the transportation process, including stock owners, transport operators, saleyard personnel, livestock agents and stockpersons.

Guidelines and standards

Inspections and enforcement

The enforcement agencies of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA Act) can investigate cruelty to an animal. The enforcement agencies are:

For more information on when and how inspections and enforcement activities are carried out click here.

Key resources

The NSW DPI web page has information on animal welfare including links to relevant legislation and mandatory standards.

Local Land Services (LLS) can provide advice on drought management including animal health, nutrition and pasture management.

Call 1300 795 299 or visit your nearest LLS office.

Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) is a state-wide program that links rural people to the help they need. Visit the website or call the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.

Primary producers are encouraged to visit DroughtHub for the latest State Seasonal Updates and information on a range of support services to prepare for and manage drought conditions.

The NSW DPI publication Welfare scoring nutritionally deprived beef cattle, dairy cattle and their crosses, sheep and horses is a useful guide to assessing animal condition. This guide is also referenced in the Regulation.

Managing drought is a handbook that has been prepared to assist primary producers in making financial and management decisions which will see them through extended dry periods.

Drought Feed Calculator App. Designed for use in the paddock to develop well-informed and cost efficient feed strategies for sheep and cattle. Search “Drought Feed Calculator”