Basic needs of farm animals
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This resource sheet is designed to provide teachers and students with information about farming food animals in Australia.
- Chickens have a very keep sense of smell and taste.
- Chickens raised and bred specifically for meat production are called broilers.
- Chickens can live for up to 10 years. In factory farms the average lifespan of broilers is five weeks.
- Even though broilers are still young when they are slaughtered, they are larger than the average five week old chicken. This is because they are given hormones to grow at three times their natural rate. Such growth causes undeveloped bones that become prone to breakages, heart disease and lameness.
- Chickens like to be in a safe place to roost at night, preferring to be in high places, such as in trees.
- Chickens like to stay clean and enjoy having a ‘dust bath’ by rolling around and flapping in dry dust or sand. This helps to scrub their feathers clean.
- Chickens in factory farms often live in cages with wired flooring. Consequently, chickens who want to stay clean resort to ‘sham dust bathing’, where they try to roll around on the wired flooring. This leads to serious injuries from birds getting trapped in the wire.
- Chickens are grazers and enjoy scratching around in the dirt to look for worms and insects. Chickens can be fed pellets, seed and grain mixes and vegetables.
Products we use from chickens:
- Cows have keen hearing and can hear higher frequency sounds than humans. They find low pitched sounds more calming than higher pitched sounds.
- Cows have been used in farming for thousands of years and are very docile and trusting.
- Cows like to touch one another to communicate. In a herd they will often lick, nuzzle and groom one another.
- Calves can remember mistreatment and rough handling, which can alter their behaviour and temperament in adulthood.
- Cows often live on grasslands and pastures where they can graze on grass. They are very clean and will not eat grass that has been urinated on.
- Calves drink milk until they are around 4 weeks old. In factory farms, newborn calves called ‘bobby calves’ are removed from their mothers at less than two weeks of age, to reserve the milk for human consumption. Bobby calves are not required to produce milk and are slaughtered at around five days old. Some male calves (bull calves) will be reared for veal production while a quarter of female calves (heifers) will become replacements for adult dairy cows.
Products we use from cows:
- Meat (e.g. beef, veal)
- Dairy products (e.g. butter, chest and yoghurt)
- Pigs can live from 10 to 25 years.
- Pigs are highly intelligent animals and are considered to be the fourth most intelligent animal after humans, great apes, whales and dolphins.
- Pigs do not have sweat glands and need to wallow in water or mud to keep cool.
- Pigs are highly social, playful and curious animals.
- Pigs are very clean animals and choose to eat, sleep and defecate in different areas.
- Pigs like to live with their families in small groups. Wild pigs live in forests and on grasslands and pastures.
- In Australia, a pregnant pig living on a factory farm can still be legally confined in a sow crate, which is a metal cage little bigger than her body. Sows are unable to turn around and can barely move. Sows will be continually impregnated while her body is able to do so and will give birth on concrete or metal floor.
- Pigs are omnivores, which means they will eat both plant and meat.
- Pigs enjoy digging around in the ground for insects, worms and plant roots.
Products we use from pigs:
- Meat (e.g. bacon, pork and ham)
- RSPCA Australia Knowledge Base, last updated 22 March 2012: http://kb.rspca.org.au/What-happens-to-bobby-calves_87.html
- Animals Australia, The facts: Every egg and meat product has its story:http://www.animalsaustralia.org/radio/old-macdonald/factory-farming.php