This booklet is one in a series of eight legal booklets for farmers
- About the booklet
- Key terms, acronyms and abbreviations
- Roles and responsibilities
- Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
- Legislation and the farmer
- Further information
About the booklet
This booklet is one of a series of eight covering legal aspects of managing a farm:
- Chemical Management
- Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety
- Livestock Management
- Noxious Weed and Pest Animal Management
- Soil Management
- Waste Management
- Water Management
Each booklet provides a list of the relevant legislation and explains the purpose of each.
They have been written for land managers and primary producers. Each booklet consists of the following sections:
- Key terms, acronyms and abbreviations – an explanation of some of the language and terms used throughout the booklet.
- Introduction – a summary of the intention of the legislation.
- Roles and responsibilities – an explanation of roles played by national, state and local governments, their agencies and farmers.
- Relevant laws, guidelines and the Codes – the relevant Acts, guidelines and Codes covering farm management in Victoria.
- Legislation and the farmer – A table of potential situations with an explanation of a farmer's obligations or the implications under the relevant Acts in Victoria.
Animal welfare – how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter/killing. Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment.
Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines – National Standards for the welfare of livestock, adopted into Victorian law by the Livestock Management Act 2010 (Vic) as Livestock Management Standards.
Biosecurity – the protection of the economy, the environment, social amenity or human health from negative impacts associated with the entry, establishment or spread of animal or plant pests and disease, or invasive plant and animal species.
Codes of Practice – Codes created under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. The Codes of Practice set out minimum recommended practices and standards for food, water, housing, shelter, treatment and euthanasia of livestock. The Codes of Practice are voluntary, but compliance with them can provide a defense against a cruelty charge. The Codes of Practice that Victoria has adopted are listed below. The national model codes (on which the Victorian codes are based) are being gradually rewritten as Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines. However, until each Code of Practice is replaced, the Codes of Practice still apply in Victoria.
Farm biosecurity – a series of measures to minimise risk to the farm and industry (including effects on animal, plant, human health, product quality and environment) posed by the entry or spread of biological agents including diseases, pests and weeds. These measures can be very simple and should become part of a regular routine.
Land Transport Standards – the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock. They cover the transport of livestock by road, rail and by livestock transport vehicle aboard a ship. They apply to the major commercial livestock industries in Australia: cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, alpacas, poultry, emus, ostriches, buffalo, deer and camels. These Standards are to be enacted as a Livestock Management Standard under the Livestock Management Act 2010 (Vic), at which point they will replace the Codes of Practice on the transport of livestock.
Livestock – (a) any animal kept for the purposes of primary production, including cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, ratites (e.g. ostriches, emus), buffalo, camels, alpacas, goats and deer; (b) horses, including where used for recreation; and (c) any animals prescribed as livestock (none as yet).
Livestock Management Standard –a standard published under section 9 of the Livestock Management Act 2010 (Vic).
Livestock Production Assurance – the national program that underpins the National Vendor Declaration.
National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) – The national system operating throughout Australia for the identification and traceability of livestock. It was introduced in 1999 to meet European Union requirements for cattle exports. Since then it has expanded to enable cattle, sheep and goats to be traced from property of birth to slaughter for biosecurity, meat safety, product integrity and market access purposes. Major producer, feedlot, agent, saleyard and processor bodies endorse the NLIS. The regulatory framework for the NLIS is contained in the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and its Regulations.
National Traceability Performance Standards – the national standards behind the NLIS.
National Vendor Declaration (NVD) – a statutory declaration that owners must sign prior to selling slaughter livestock, which provides a mechanism for the transfer of information on the history of livestock consigned for sale or slaughter.
Property Identification Code (PIC) – a unique identification number assigned to each farm or parcel of land that forms the basis of the mandatory tagging system which underpins the NLIS.
Property Risk Assessment – one of the basic requirements to become a Level 1 accredited Livestock Product Assurance producer (which is required to use National Vendor Declarations). The Assessment confirms that livestock are not exposed to areas that are contaminated with organochlorines or other persistent chemicals.
Traceability – the ability to follow an animal from one point in the supply chain to another, either backwards or forwards. Livestock traceability systems are based upon three basic elements: animal identification, premises identification and animal movement.
Acronyms / abbreviations
AHA Animal Health Australia
AAWS Australian Animal Welfare Strategy
AGMIN Agriculture Ministers Forum
COAG Council of Australian Governments
DAWR Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (Commonwealth)
DEDJTR Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (Victoria)
EADRA Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement
FSANZ Food Standards Australia and New Zealand
LMA Livestock Management Act 2010 (Vic)
NLIS National Livestock Identification Scheme
NVD National Vendor Declaration
PIC Property Identification Code
RSPCA Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Livestock owners have legal responsibilities in relation to livestock health and welfare, identification, biosecurity, chemical management and confinement. It is important that you are aware of and understand your legal responsibilities in relation to livestock management, welfare and production. By complying with these requirements you can ensure that consumer needs are being met and both domestic and international markets are protected.
Consumers in our major markets are demanding more information about how their food is produced, transported and processed; and how livestock are managed from birth to slaughter. Livestock producers must manage their livestock in a way that provides for the health and welfare of the animals as well as producing livestock that deliver premium quality product.
International customers and trading partners are continuously seeking assurance that there are efficient government and industry control mechanisms to minimise risks to biosecurity and animal welfare. Market forces alone cannot address these risks therefore intervention in the form of legislation and standards is needed.
This booklet aims to give producers an overview of the varying legislation affecting their management of livestock. As well, some information is provided on meeting your legislative requirements in relation to other animals commonly owned by producers.
Roles and responsibilities
General responsibilities in relation to livestock management
The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) provides policy and legislation for aspects of livestock management concerning biosecurity, including live exports and supply of agricultural chemicals.
DAWR is responsible for Australia's export licences and regularly carries out inspections to ensure biosecurity, traceability and animal welfare requirements for export licensing and importing countries are being met. DAWR also manages quarantine controls at our borders and provides import and export inspection and certification to help retain Australia's highly favourable animal, plant and human health status and wide access to overseas export markets.
Under Australia's constitutional arrangements, State and Territory Governments are responsible for livestock management, disease response and welfare arrangements within their jurisdictions, in terms of both enforcing national standards and agreements, as well as administering State legislation. The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) designs and delivers policies and programs that enable Victoria's primary industries to maximise the wealth and wellbeing they generate by producing essential goods and services, employment, investment and recreational opportunities.
Agriculture Victoria operates within DEDJTR. It develops policy, standards, delivery systems and services that reduce the threat of invasive plants and animals to agriculture and the natural environment, protects animals and plants from pests and diseases, enhances food safety, ensures minimal and effective chemical use, protects the welfare of animals and preserves and expands market access for Victoria's primary industries.
Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
Legislation relating to livestock management includes:
- Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992
- Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Regulations 2017
- Domestic Animals Act 1994
- Domestic Animals Regulations 2015
- Impounding of Livestock Act 1994
- Impounding of Livestock Regulations 2018
- Livestock Disease Control Act 1994
- Livestock Disease Control Regulations 2017
- Livestock Management Act 2010
- Livestock Management Regulations 2011
- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986
- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2008
- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Domestic Fowl) Regulations 2016
- Stock (Seller Liability and Declarations) Act 1993
Under each Act listed above, there are designated officers with responsibility for enforcing that Act. Authorised officers for these Acts are generally either state government officers from DEDJTR or local government officers. Animal welfare enforcement under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 is enforced by a range of authorised officers from DEDJTR, Victoria Police, the RSPCA and Councils. Commercial livestock issues are handled primarily by DEDJTR while non-commercial and companion animal issues are handled by Victoria Police, the RSPCA and Councils.
To access these Acts and Regulations go to Legislation Victoria website
Summary of the relevant Acts: Livestock Management
Livestock Management & Companion Animals
Impounding of Livestock Act 1994
Codes and guidelines
Codes of Accepted
Codes of Practice
Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992
Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Regulations 2017
Refer to Chemical Management Legal Booklet for information on this legislation.
Domestic Animals Act 1994
Domestic Animals Regulations 2015
The purpose of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 is to promote responsible pet ownership animal welfare, and to protect the environment. The legislation provides for cat and dog management and identification and enables Councils to deal effectively with feral and nuisance dogs and cats as well as dog attacks on people and other animals.
It also includes standards for microchip identification of dogs, cats and horses by putting in place specific requirements as to who can implant, the implant procedure and maintenance of microchip registers for these species. This legislation makes micro-chipping mandatory for dogs and cats (with some exemptions) but it is not compulsory for owners to microchip horses. The Act also regulates dogs declared to be dangerous, menacing or a restricted breed.
The legislation provides for the registration and conduct of Domestic Animal Businesses, including provision for the making of Codes of Practice specifying mandatory standards for Domestic Animal Businesses. These include Codes of Practice for breeding and rearing of dogs, including the responsible ownership of working dogs. Further information can be found on the responsible ownership of working dogs here. Breeders of working dogs should be aware of any Codes of Practice that apply to their situation.
Impounding of Livestock Act 1994
Impounding of Livestock Regulations 2018
The purpose of this Act is to provide for the impounding of livestock that has been abandoned or found trespassing on any land or roads, to regulate the impounding, care, release, disposal or destruction of impounded livestock and provide for matters relating to the agistment of horses.
Impounding means the seizure of trespassing and abandoned livestock. For the purpose of the Act, livestock means 'any animal, including a bird, of any species used in connection with primary production, or kept for recreational purposes, other than a dog or cat.'
The Act allows straying livestock to be impounded by Council officers, officers of the Roads Corporation and owners or occupiers of any land if the livestock are trespassing on that land or on a road adjoining that land. Where landowners impound livestock trespassing on their land and they do not know who owns the livestock, they must notify the local Council as soon as possible.
Wandering livestock can pose a significant public safety threat where they wander onto public roadways and livestock owners have a responsibility to ensure livestock are adequately confined.
The Act provides that Council officers can issue notices to owners of livestock that trespass or are not confined by adequate fencing to the premises on which they are kept. Such notices can include a direction to take the measures set out in the notice to adequately confine the livestock, such as requiring fencing to be fixed.
Council officers may enter any land or building (other than a residence) at the request of the owner if the owner reasonably suspects that there is abandoned livestock in or on the land or building. The Council officer may impound any animals he or she believes to be abandoned and must deliver those animals to a pound.
The Act also provides a legal method for owners/operators of properties agisting a horse to establish a lien over the animal, recover unpaid agistment fees and potentially sell or remove the horse from the property.
A person who impounds livestock in accordance with the Act is entitled to recover costs incurred from the owner of the livestock as a civil debt.
Livestock Management Act 2010
Livestock Management Regulations 2011
The Livestock Management Act 2010, passed by the Victorian Parliament in April 2010, provides Victoria's new approach to livestock management. It provides a framework to achieve nationally consistent animal welfare, biosecurity and traceability standards for the livestock sector via the incorporation of the Australian Standards (as they are created) as 'Livestock Management Standards'. The Act enables issues relating to general livestock management, including traceability, biosecurity, chemical standard management and animal welfare, to be distinct from issues dealt with under other Acts, such as the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 or the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. This provides more clarity for industry on specific requirements that underpin their market access.
The Act provides a standard inspection model for enforcement, together with a new co-regulatory regime that acknowledges previous industry investment in complying with appropriate quality assurance programs or other systems to meet the Codes of Practice or other standards. The Act therefore does not require industry to duplicate that effort, subsequently reducing compliance cost and red tape for the industry.
A livestock operator must comply with applicable Livestock Management Standards when engaging in a regulated livestock management activity. The Act establishes methods and standards for compliance with Livestock Management Standards and sets out enforcement provisions, including offences and significant penalties for failure to comply in certain circumstances. Livestock operators who do not operate under an approved compliance arrangement will be subject to higher levels of inspection for compliance with the Livestock Management Standards. They will also be required to undertake a written risk assessment of their business against the relevant Standards.
As each set of Livestock Management Standards is prescribed as regulations in Victoria, the Act will require the implementation of those Standards across all categories of livestock to which the particular Standards apply, from the point of birth to slaughter.
Livestock Disease Control Act 1994
Livestock Disease Control Regulations 2017
The principal Act dealing with disease in livestock in Victoria is the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994. The Act administers the prevention, monitoring and control of livestock diseases, with provisions for all livestock (which includes any animal, bee, fish, bird or egg for hatching). A key function of the Act is to provide powers and mechanisms to combat exotic disease outbreaks. It also addresses issues such as compensation, licences and registrations, and enforcement.
The Regulations deal with disease notification, identification of livestock, introduction of livestock into Victoria, prevention of the spread of disease, records of sale, purchase and movement of livestock.
The Governor in Council can declare any contagious or infectious disease or condition to be a disease or an exotic disease for the purposes of the Act, or the whole or any part of Victoria to be an area for the control of diseases and specify requirements which are to operate in those areas. The Governor in Council can also make an Order prohibiting or restricting entry of livestock, livestock product, fodder or fittings into Victoria.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2008
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Domestic Fowl) Regulations 2016
The purpose of this Act is to prevent cruelty to animals, to encourage the considerate treatment of animals and to improve the level of community awareness about the prevention of cruelty to animals.
This legislation covers all animals including livestock, feral animals, animals used in exhibition, research or recreation and those kept as pets. Anyone who owns, manages or is involved with animals needs to be aware of their legal responsibilities in respect of those animals.
The legislation sets out the major cruelty offences, as well as addressing a range of animal procedures, uses and devices including trapping, rodeos and prohibiting certain procedures or devices. The Domestic Fowl Regulations set out minimum housing standards for poultry kept in intensive housing.
Stock (Seller Liability and Declarations) Act 1993
This Act requires that certain species of stock be free of disease and not be in particular conditions when sold. It establishes a system that enables sellers of these species of stock to declare that particular stock or livestock products (e.g. milk, wool or honey) sold by them meet a specified description. The Act enables buyers of stock or livestock products to have confidence in those declarations.
In this way, the Act helps to protect and ensure the quality of livestock and livestock products for national and international markets.
Animal Welfare Codes of Practice
Animal welfare codes are made under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA) and describe the minimum acceptable practice that should be implemented to ensure the welfare of livestock. Their aim is to promote the humane and considerate treatment of animals and to inform animal owners and carers of their responsibilities in relation to the care and husbandry of the animal. The Codes are voluntary, but compliance with the Codes can provide a defence against a cruelty charge.
Nationally consistent Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the welfare of livestock are being developed and will replace the existing Codes. In Victoria these Standards and Guidelines will be incorporated under the Livestock Management Act. For example, the Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines - Land Transport of Livestock will commence in late 2012. Each of the existing Codes of Practice will continue to apply until they are replaced by an Animal Welfare Standard and Guideline.
Codes of Practice / Australian Standards
The Animal Welfare Codes of Practice and the new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines that have been introduced are available from this website.
- Code of accepted farming practice for the welfare of cattle
- Code of accepted farming practice for the welfare of deer
- Code of practice for the husbandry of captive emus
- Code of practice for the welfare of goats
- Code of accepted practice for the welfare of horses
- Code of practice for the welfare of horses competing at bush races
- Code of practice for the welfare of horses at horse hire establishments
- Victorian Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Pigs
- Code of accepted farming practice for the welfare of poultry.
- Code of practice for the intensive husbandry of rabbits
- Code of practice for the welfare of rodeo and rodeo school livestock
- Code of practice for the welfare of animals at saleyards
- Code of accepted farming practice for the welfare of sheep
- Code of practice for the tethering of animals
- Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines - Land Transport of Livestock (will replace the current transport code in late 2012). This will cover the transport of all livestock, including poultry, pigs and horses.
Legislation and the farmer
Key questions for producers about livestock management
The following checklist provides producers with a starting point for assessing their livestock management. More information is available in the following table or by phoning the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
- Do you have a Property Identification Code (PIC) for your farm?
- Are your livestock and their property of origin clearly identifiable (as per the NLIS)?
- Have you completed a Property Risk Assessment for your enterprise as part of the LPA?
- Do you have procedures in place for safe and responsible livestock treatments?
- Do you have procedures in place for the preparation for dispatch and subsequent movement of livestock?
- Do you have copies of the relevant Australian Standards and Codes of Practice relating to the livestock you manage, and are you familiar with its contents and your responsibilities?
- Do you have a list of all chemicals and veterinary products used on your livestock?
- Do you know what a withholding period for a veterinary chemical product is?
- Do you keep records of where your feed comes from (so you can record it on your NVD forms)?
- Are your dogs and cats registered?
- Do you breed dogs? If so do you need to be registered as a breeding establishment with your local council?
- Are you aware of your legal responsibilities for other animals on your property (dogs, cats, horses, etc)?
- Do you have an emergency management plan that includes your livestock and companion animals?
- Are you aware of your legal responsibilities under the national Land Transport Standards for movement of livestock and have you complied with them?
- Is there a suitable industry quality assurance program which demonstrates compliance with the applicable livestock management standards for your livestock enterprise?
- Do you know the health status of incoming stock?
- Are introduced stock kept separate for a period of time and observed for signs of disease?
- Do you have a routine preventative vaccination program for your livestock?
- Can you recognise 'sick' and 'healthy' livestock?
- Are your livestock properly confined to your property?
- Are sick and dead livestock, in particular reproductive losses (abortions, mummies, stillbirths), recorded as part of a health-monitoring program?
- Is there a plan for managing sick and/or compromised livestock?
- Do you have a written method of euthanising sick/compromised livestock in a timely and humane manner?
- Are you aware of the recommended methods for undertaking management procedures (castration, dehorning, taildocking etc) on livestock?
- Do you have an understanding of good handling methods to reduce stress on both livestock and handlers?
- Do all the people who work with your livestock have the relevant knowledge, skills and experience to perform their duties?
- Do all of the people who work with your livestock know how to recognise unusual disease incidents and know who to report such diseases to?
- Do you know what to do when unknown dogs or cats stray onto your property?
Farm activity or
On-farm obligations or implications
Property Identification Code
National Livestock Identification System (NLIS)
NLIS and cattle
NLIS and sheep and Goats
National Vendor Declaration (NVD) Forms
Livestock Management Standards
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Care and husbandry
Procedures and devices
Housing of poultry
Victorian Codes of Practice relating to livestock
Victorian Codes of Practice for Animal Welfare
Stray or trespassing livestock
Confinement of livestock
Contact us for more information on livestock management.
ISBN 978-1-74264-496-7 (print)
ISBN 978-1-74264-497-4 (online)
This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.