Improving kangaroo welfare in harvest
The humaneness of aspects of kangaroo harvesting, particularly the euthanasia of pouch young and young-at-foot, is the subject of new research to run until 2012.
There has been controversy regarding the most humane methods of disposing of pouch young and dependent young-at-foot and for many years animal welfare organisations, such as RSPCA Australia, have called for research.
Many consumers see commercial harvesting of kangaroos as an efficient, sustainable and environmentally-friendly industry.
This is in keeping with the notion that the use and management of animals is acceptable provided it is humane.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) is funding research scientist, Dr Steve McLeod, and PhD student, Trudy Sharp, to examine the issue.
Dr McLeod, with the Primary Industries division of Industry and Investment NSW, says the humaneness of some methods has not previously been objectively assessed.
The project will provide objective welfare measurements to develop best practice methods.
We will work with the commercial kangaroo industry to see where improvements can be made, Dr McLeod said.
Their study will include a trial of a spring-operated captive-bolt gun developed for stunning small rabbit-sized animals before euthanasia.
We will use the information we gather to recommend changes to current practices, if necessary, for better animal welfare outcomes, Trudy Sharp said.
The information will also be used to educate stakeholders and the community about humaneness of commercial harvesting.
Dr McLeod says the project also demonstrates the kangaroo industry is taking an active role in this important issue.
The merit in the research also stems from the fact that many consumers and an increasing number of farmers see commercial harvesting of kangaroos as sustainable livestock production, rather than pest eradication.
There have been suggestions that methane emissions could be substantially reduced by replacing at least some of the sheep and cattle production in the NSW rangelands with kangaroos.
Presently sheep and cattle in the rangelands account for 30 per cent of the national herd.
Kangaroos produce relatively little methane, Dr McLeod said.
Although, like sheep and cattle, they are also foregut fermenters, they have a much shorter retention time, which inhibits the production of methane.
Consensus amongst scientists that climate change in Australia will lead to reductions in rainfall across much in the inland also adds weight to a recent comparative study of the energy requirements of kangaroos and sheep.
The study by Dr Adam Munn, from the University's School of Veterinary Science, concluded roos have far less impact on the environment than once thought.
Dr Munn says kangaroos consume only around 13 per cent as much water per day as sheep, comparing diets consisting mainly of saltbush.
Steve McLeod was Dr Munn's main collaborator on the project.
The study shows that kangaroos consume approximately one-third of the energy of sheep and therefore have much less of an impact on the environment, Dr McLeod said.
"With climate change, most rangelands are going to need to look at diverse options for land management for sustainability," said Dr Munn.
Other key facts:
- Domestic livestock produce 70pc of total agricultural emissions of methane.
- As the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the Australian economy, Agriculture contributes approximately 16 per cent of total output, of which 11pc is methane.
- Sheep feeding on saltbush will drink approximately 12 litres of water a day, as opposed to kangaroos, which drink around 1.5 litres a day.
- A kangaroo will turn over around 5000 kilojoules per day, with sheep turning over around 15,000.
Contact Steve McLeod, Orange, (02) 6391 3810, email@example.com