LAWS making it mandatory for every paddock that ever houses livestock to have shade are unnecessary and fraught with the danger of perverse inadvertent outcomes, producers say.
The Greens have come up with a plan to make it an offence to have livestock without access to shade in NSW, with penalties equal to those in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The plan, announced today by Greens MP and Animal Welfare spokesperson Cate Faehrmann and Greens candidate for Lismore Sue Higginson, includes a $30m support package to assist farmers with some of the costs of putting in shade structures and planting and fencing off shade trees and shelter belts.
Ms Higginson said there would be a two-year transition but incentives would be geared to encourage early uptake.
Ms Faehrmann said: "The reality is that under the current rules, farms animals across NSW are currently in paddocks with little to no shade and this is compromising their welfare.
“While the majority of farmers are of course doing their best, it is alarming to see the number of cattle and sheep without cover in extremely hot conditions as you drive through regional areas.”
Producers and beef consultants, however, say animals without shade would be the exception, not the rule.
Farmers have planted millions of trees over the years for livestock shade, shelter belts, to manage erosion and salinity and for other reasons, they said.
Animal welfare is already a high priority and livestock producers actively manage for heat stress.
“The idea the world will work better if this is mandated is simply not correct,” sheep and cattle producer and NSW Farmers president James Jackson said.
“Prescriptive laws may preclude sensible things like having sheep do weed control to reduce herbicide use in broadacre cultivation.
“Further, in some environments, shade is simply not critical. Where I live in Guyra, we get one day a year above 30.
“Prescriptive solutions take away flexibility to manage systems cleverly.”
Cattle Council president Tony Heggarty agreed.
“Livestock producers know trees and shelter belts provide a wide range of benefits, not only for animal welfare but from a natural resource management angle,” he said.
“For decades, there has been activity in this space.
“This sort of plan doesn’t take into account the wide variation that exists across the environment and the industry.”
The Greens politicians said the Standards and Guidelines for Animal Welfare for Cattle and Sheep, which inform the enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in NSW, only required shade to be considered in construction of facilities for livestock.
Ms Higginson said: "As a farmer I know that good animal husbandry is key to farm management. Providing shade for livestock is essential to animal welfare and productivity.
“In hot weather, access to shade is as important for animal welfare as access to water and feed and it is time this was recognised in law.”