AT just 25-years-old, Andrew Slack was announced the 2015 young lotfeeder of the year at the annual Australian Lotfeeding Association conference last week.
Currently the mill manager at Smithfield Feedlot, Proston, Queensland, Andrew chose to investigate further into the area of olfaction (smell) and the possibilities of training dogs to detect sick animals before clinical symptoms present themselves.
Andrew says “dogs are currently being used in many fields of detection” and while his findings are still at the research stage, he is yet to put it to practical work.
“Dogs are widely used in drug and explosive detection, but also a little less commonly known; they have been used in detecting cancers in humans,” he said.
He said by using dogs as a health detection mechanism on a feedlot, they can speed up identifying illnesses and the subsequent treatment processes.
“The type of dog to be used will be crucial to the success, and I would be looking at Labradors, Beagles and Cocker Spaniels,” he said.
“But it would have a lot to do with the dog’s temperament, and its ability to be trained, and have the incentive and drive to be trained.
“Once I get the practical side of the project up and working we would look to start the project on a smaller scale, and maybe have the dogs sniffing the heifers to find out if they are in-calf,” he said.
“Therefore a possible use would include the detection of oestrous in heifers being inducted into the feedlots.
“The current method of pregnancy testing heifers includes rectal palpation which is invasive for the heifer, and can only identify pregnant heifers six weeks after conception.
“Dogs could also be used to indicate cattle in the early stages of Bovine Respiratory Disease, before the animal is showing objective symptoms."
Andrew said detecting and treating cattle in the early stages of BRD would prevent the irreversible pulmonary lesions and maximise the antibiotic reaction, at the same time preventing the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
“Overall we should be looking not only at future technological advances to identify sick cattle but also natural biological systems.”
Other young lotfeeding finalists were Thomas Gree, Jindalee Feedlot, Temora, NSW and Jeff Schuller, Coonamble Feedlot, Coonamble, NSW.
Andrew will be given the opportunity to undertake a study tour abroad (valued at $5000) and enhance his leadership skills by participating in the TRAIL Program run by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation on an MLA/ALFA sponsored scholarship.