Requirements and obtaining approval

Since August 1993, State Environmental Planning Policy No. 30 has required developers to obtain approval to build or operate any cattle feedlot with a capacity of 50 head or more in New South Wales. In most instances the appropriate consent authority is the local Council.

An overview of the requirements for drainage systems — establishment of a controlled drainage area, capture and storage of runoff (effluent) — and for using effluent and manure is provided in the  National Guidelines for Beef Cattle Feedlots in Australia (second edition, 1997).

Additional detail, particularly regarding the requirements in New South Wales, is provided in the New South Wales Feedlot Manual. This Manual also has information about the requirements of the Environment Protection Authority’s pollution control legislation, particularly with reference to the development and operation of cattle feedlots in this state. A ‘feedlot’ is defined in the   National Guidelines for Beef Cattle Feedlots in Australia (second edition, 1997) as follows:

‘A beef feedlot is a confined yard area with watering and feeding facilities where cattle are completely hand or mechanically fed for the purpose of production.

This definition does not include the feeding or penning of cattle in this way for weaning, dipping or similar husbandry purposes or for drought or other emergency feeding, or at a slaughtering place or in recognised saleyards.’

This can be interpreted to mean that establishing and using an ‘intensive feeding’ operation to finish home-bred cattle as part of your drought management strategy, when your area is drought declared, does not require formal council approval. This might also apply as a result of a bushfire or flood.

However, if the operation is in the wrong place, or if it’s badly designed, there is a danger of pollution, particularly of surface or groundwaters, or of impinging on the community amenity. Such pollution may make you liable to prosecution. It’s a good idea to talk to one or more of your local council, NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources (DIPNR) about the sensitivity of your proposed site. Do this first, before you start.

Further, if you decide that the operation is economically viable and you want to continue feeding after the drought, you will need approval. Your local council will be the consent authority in most cases.

In addition, to ensure that you are paid a ‘grain-fed’ premium, you may decide to become an Accredited Feedlot under the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS).

The grant of Feedlot Accreditation by AUS-MEAT does not imply or confirm that State feedlot planning and environmental management requirements are being met. Various State authorities are responsible for ensuring that due attention is paid to site selection and the provision of the appropriate facilities and structures necessary to obtain feedlot approval or licensing. It is the responsibility of a feedlot’s management to ensure that the relevant State approvals and/or licences are obtained.

Standards Manual
National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme

Issues of particular concern with feedlot approvals are:

  • possible impact on the community amenity, especially in relation to odour, dust, noise and insects;
  • protection of surface and groundwater (underground water resources) from possible pollution by feedlot effluent, either by runoff from the feedlot pens and other yards, or by infiltration of water below the pen surface;
  • effluent runoff into a neighbour’s property — even without polluting surface or groundwater;
  • availability of suitable land areas for using effluent and manure sustainably;
  • availability of suitable water supplies for stock water and, depending on effluent volume and quality, for dilution of effluent for irrigation. Check with DIPNR about water licence requirements.

Impinging on neighbouring properties can easily lead to further problems, especially if complaints are made to your local council.

Your development application to the council needs to be supported by a Statement of Environmental Effects or SEE (previously called an Environmental Impact Report or EIR). Most councils or the appropriate government agencies have guidelines which can help you with this document.

Appendix 1 outlines the steps to establish a small feedlot in New South Wales.

If you are planning to develop a feedlot with capacity greater than 1000 head of cattle, it will be a designated development under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). Such a development requires preparation of a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS), which must be submitted with the development application.

A copy of the EIS Guideline for Cattle Feedlots can be purchased, at a cost of $11 plus postage, from DIPNR Information Centre, GPO Box 3927, Sydney 2001.

Appendix 2 is a flow chart about the approval process for cattle feedlots under the EP&A Act.

Animal welfare

Development applications for small cattle feedlots should explain how the operation will comply with the requirements of the appropriate welfare codes.

The Australian Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals — Cattle (2nd edn) has been replaced by The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle.

For feedlots also seeking Accreditation, welfare issues will be adequately covered in the feedlots’ Quality Assurance manuals, which are given both off-site and field audits. Therefore the development application should explain that welfare issues will be addressed under the Accreditation process.