Activities with cattle

Information about the approved activities that may be carried out using cattle in schools.

Cattle – introduction to activities

As required by the Animal Research Act, the Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee have prepared a list of approved activities. These activities are those that may need to be carried out in the school setting and have been deemed appropriate, when carried out by a person with the appropriate skill and experience and educationally justified.

The activities have been organised into categories 1-5. The category reflects the potential impact on the animal and requires a greater justification and expertise of those carrying out the activity. Visit Categories of activities for further explanation.

Taking measurements from cattle

Cattle – non-invasive measurement

Approved activities Category
1. Body weight

2. Body condition

  • Visual assessment
  • Condition scoring
  • Ultrasound




3. Growth 2
4. Body proportions 2
5. Pulse or bloodflow 2
6. Respiration 2
7. Skin by temperature 2
8. Age by dentition 2
9. Scrotum and testicles (palpation) 2

In order to weigh cattle they will need to be walked through the race and into the crush. Routine weighing is generally done to:

  • Monitor growth rates
  • Match nutrition required with nutrition supplied
  • Provide data for analysis and planning.

Weighing cattle in the crush demonstrates this activity.

Cattle should be restrained while carrying out any of the above measurements. In general restraint is best in a crush, but well handled show animals may be restrained by tying up with halter and lead.

Image: Cattle are best restrained in a crush to carry out measurements.

Collecting samples from livestock

Cattle – collection of samples

Approved activities Category
1. Wool/hair 2
2. Milk 2
3. Faeces & urine (non-invasive) 2
4. Faeces (invasive) 3
6. Blood 5
6. Measurement of body temperature (invasive) 3
Image: Collection of milk needs a special technique

Cattle should be adequately restrained, either in a crush or tied by halter and lead, depending on the temperament and history of the animal, to allow safe collection of samples.

Before collecting milk, ensure hands are thoroughly washed. Wash teats to stimulate let down. After collection, teat(s) should be dipped to prevent infection.

When collecting faeces and urine samples, gloves should be worn and hands washed after completion of the activity.

Cattle husbandry practices

Cattle – husbandry

*The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act describes the legal ages for the following cattle husbandry practices:

Castration – less than six months of age

Dehorning – less than 12 months.

**Cattle must be suitably identified applicable to the production system and current regulations.

*All citizens in NSW must comply with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA). Castration can only be carried out after six months of age if performed by a veterinarian and the animal is appropriately anaesthetized.

**All cattle must be tagged in accordance with the NLIS

Approved activities Category
4. Ear marking/tagging of livestock 3
7. Hoof trimming: cattle & horses 3
12. Milking 3
19. Freeze branding of cattle and horses 4

22. Castration of calves

  • Elastrator (less than 2 weeks old)
  • Knife
  • Emasculator




30. Microchipping 3
31. Horn tipping 3
32. Dehorning cattle under 6 months of age 4
34. Disbudding calves 4
Image: As well as a NLIS tag, most cattle also have a management tag

Routine husbandry activities for cattle include:

  • Internal parasite control
  • External parasite control
  • Vaccination
  • Identification (branding, ear tagging, tattooing)
  • Castration
  • Pregnancy detection
  • Horn tipping and dehorning.

Freeze branding, castration, dehorning and disbudding all have the potential to cause pain and distress and school staff should consider the use of pain relief for the animals undergoing these procedures. The use of suitable pain relief should be discussed with a veterinarian who is familiar with cattle and advice can be accessed at Flyboss – Pain relief – frequently asked questions.

Image: Management tags and applicators

It is essential that a crush or calf cradle and the appropriate equipment are used for each of the activities, with the exception of milking a dairy cow that is familiar with the activity. A head bail is suitable for milking a dairy cow.

Routine husbandry activities demonstrates some of these activities.

Schools are encouraged to keep polled cattle. This will minimise the risk of injury to humans and other animals and remove the need for horn tipping or dehorning.

Disbudding of calves is best carried out on calves in the first two weeks of life. Calves must be checked for regrowth two or three weeks after disbudding.

Cattle must be tagged in accordance with the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS). Further information can be obtained at NLIS Cattle.

Cattle breeding activities

Cattle – breeding

Approved activities Category
27. Artificial insemination 5
28. Semen collection 5

29. Pregnancy detection

  • External ultrasound (sheep, cattle, goats)
  • Rectal (manual) (cattle)
  • Rectal (ultrasound) (sheep, cattle, goats)




Image: Calves keeping close to their mothers

The development and administration of an assisted breeding program requires the input of a veterinarian or suitably qualified and experienced technician. If the teacher or farm assistant wishes to demonstrate the collection of semen and/or artificial insemination to students, they must first seek approval from the SACEC to demonstrate these category five activities. This approval is conditional upon the operator being able to demonstrate appropriate qualifications and experience.

If the teacher wishes to allow students to watch a veterinarian or registered technician demonstrate the collection of semen and/or artificial insemination to students, they do not need to seek approval from the SACEC. The SACEC considers the veterinarian or registered technician is suitably qualified and experienced to demonstrate best practice.

A high success rate in artificial insemination is generally only achieved by an experienced and qualified operator.


Calving is best planned to occur in a sheltered and well-drained area where monitoring is possible.

Management practices to maximise the best calving outcome may include:

  • Correct feeding (not over or underfeeding pregnant cows and heifers) to minimise stress and metabolic diseases
  • Selecting heifers for mating only when they have reached the minimum target weight for the breed
  • Avoiding mating heifers to bulls known to sire large birth weight calves
  • Monitoring cows and heifers close to calving, where possible, and early intervention if required
  • Selecting bulls rated for calving ease.

Humane treatment of sick, diseased and injured animals

Cattle – euthanasia

Approved activities Category
Slaughter/euthanasia of stock 5

Where an animal has become so sick, diseased or injured that recovery is unlikely or undesirable on humane grounds, euthanasia must be arranged with a local veterinarian.

Humane killing of animals must not be demonstrated to, or carried out by, students unless it is required:

  • To achieve a curriculum outcome or competency, or
  • As part of veterinary clinical management of an animal, under the direction of a veterinarian.

Students are permitted to watch a post-mortem of a euthanased animal provided there is no disease risk posed.


Cattle may be sold privately, at auction or consigned to an abattoir. All movements of cattle from the school PIC must be entered on the NLIS database and documented in the school animal care records.

Carcases must be disposed of in accordance with local council regulations.

It is illegal to kill any animal and sell the meat for human consumption unless it has been slaughtered and prepared in a licenced processing facility.

Keeping clear and accurate records

Cattle – record keeping

Teachers who use animals must keep clear and accurate records of:

  • The number of cattle owned or kept at the school
  • Identification of individual animals (ear tag number or name)
  • The dates and sources of acquisition of each animal
  • Disposal details and dates for each animal
  • Diet details for cattle kept in intensive conditions with no access to grazing
  • Complete breeding records
  • The dates and types of husbandry practices carried out
  • The name, dosage, batch number, expiry date, withholding period and dates of any chemicals administered
  • Any accident, illness or injury involving school cattle and the veterinary treatment provided (if required)
  • Any significant occurrences that adversely affect the welfare of school animals, such as vandalism, dog attack, outbreak of disease etc.

The type and format of the records maintained will vary from school to school and be dependent on the number of animals kept, number of staff involved in maintaining the records and the layout and location of the school farm.

The minimum requirement is a daily diary that is accessible to all staff involved in the care and use of the animals.

Where there are several staff members involved in the care of animals it is essential that there is a mechanism for each staff member to document notes about the general health status of school animals and that these notes are available to all other staff members who may be involved in animal care.

Return to top of page Back to top