Some schools are able to provide the facilities and space for students to participate in agricultural programs using livestock. Students develop an understanding of sustainable agricultural systems and gain skills towards future careers in the agricultural or primary production sectors.
All livestock farms, including school farms, are bound by legislation governing management of animal welfare, traceability, biodiversity, chemical use, occupational health and safety, pest plants and animals, waste and water.
When husbandry and management of livestock is part of an educational curriculum, the law requires that the use of the animals is approved by an Animal Ethics Committee and performed under a licence to use animals for science education.
The role of the Animal Ethics Committee is to assess whether the benefits of the teaching program outweigh the impact on the animals. They may only approve educational activities using animals if there are no possible non-animal alternatives.
Remember that you must have Animal Ethics Committee approval in place before you begin any activities with animals. This applies to all learning activities using animals in Victorian government, Catholic and Independent primary and secondary schools. Our flowchart will help you work through the legal requirements of using animals for teaching.
For more information on obtaining a licence and Animal Ethics Committee approval, visit our Teaching using animals pages.
There are some differences between school farms and commercial farms. School farms exist for the purposes of providing fundamental agricultural skills to inexperienced students. Because of this there are certain standards required on school farms that would not necessarily apply to a commercial farm run by an experienced farmer. Part of the Animal Ethics Committee's role is to decide on an adequate level of monitoring and oversight for animals used in educational programs.
Another difference is in the primary role of the animals' caregivers. Teachers are not usually employed for the purpose of full-time animal care. Providing continuous, competent care can be a challenge for schools. Holidays, changes in staff and the unpredictability of animals, the weather and emergencies can be difficult to juggle.
It is important that schools always have access to expertise and advice regarding the animals in their care. Contingency arrangements must be in place so that more than one staff member is aware of the needs of the animals.