Optimising stock movement in processing plants and lairage – Stage 1 Dogs

The University of Sydney

  • Project code: PRJ-009685

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Saturday, June 28, 2014

  • Project completion date: Saturday, September 30, 2017

  • National Priority: NAP-Facilitate new industry growth through multi-disciplinary approaches that potentially advantage several industries


Given that some traditional yards and abattoirs are not optimally designed for stock flow, dogs are often needed to move the sheep along. It is recognized that working dogs should be chosen carefully and trained and supervised for the specific livestock moving task required. This is not only for the welfare of the livestock but for the welfare for the dogs. However, there is growing public concern about welfare of pre-slaughter stock that are exposed to dogs. Indeed, in the wake of concern raised by buyers from UK Supermarket giant, Tesco, New Zealand’s National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee recommended that, to reduce stress, dogs should be banned from moving sheep from the holding pen outside each slaughterhouse to the killing area. The reasons for this decision focus on the possibility that the stress that sheep undergo when trucked from the farm to the abattoir may be compounded by being worked by dogs.
The undoubted need for low stress use of dogs is highlighted by the National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council’s recent publication of support materials to improve the use of dogs in stock yards and lairage (MINTRAC, 2014). Such training initiatives are extremely worthwhile but they rely almost entirely on anecdotal evidence and the transmission of accrued wisdom. Unfortunately, to date, virtually no empirical research has been conducted into this area. However, this is an area of growing interest to veterinary ethologists. It is timely because the University of Sydney is current hosting two PhD research programs for veterinarians (supported by a grant from the Australian Government’s Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia and the Working Kelpie Council of Australia) who are assessing the value of working kelpies on farms and characterizing preferred dog characteristics for optimal herding in paddocks. It also currently hosts an Honours research study examining the defense responses of sheep, funded by Au


New and Emerging Animal Industries

Research Organisation

The University of Sydney

Objective Summary

The project will focus on livestock handling in processing plants and lairage, yards, sale-yards and transporters. Stage 1 builds on existing projects that are revealing the benefits of optimal stockmanship and dog handling in paddocks. It has five core objectives. Firstly, we aim to characterise optimal dog use in yards, races and pens. Second, we will compare optimal dog use with optimal stockpersons alone to reveal any significant differences in efficiency or performance outcomes that arise from dog-enabled and dog-free handling. Third, we will identify the attributes for handlers who apply best practice in the deployment of these working dogs. Fourth, we will explore relationships between handler personality, emotional intelligence and dog handling ability to ensure that the recruitment of stockpersons can be aligned with optimal outcomes. Finally, we develop and assess an educational program that enhances effectiveness of working dog handlers in moving stock with minimal stress. If funded, Stage(s) 2/3 will encompass a) stockmanship and b) other supply chains situations including saleyards and transporters.