CARCASE damage caused by dog bites – whether from domestic and wild dogs or dingo predation — has been listed among the top 20 health conditions causing carcase downgrades, according to the National Sheep Health Monitoring Report 2021-22.
The monitoring project facilitated by Animal Health Australia operated in 10 abattoirs around the country, with meat inspectors inspecting 7.7 million sheep for up to 20 animal health conditions.
This provided a snapshot of the health of a significant portion of the Australian sheep flock.
The percentage of animals affected by dog bites had increased from 0.03 percent in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 to 0.05pc in 2021/22 – an increase of 67 percent over the past one to two years.
According to the report, dog bites usually occur in the hindquarters, but also can occur on the face or along the back. Abattoirs require dogs to be muzzled at all times. Wild dogs and dingoes are commonly un-muzzled.
Carcases of sheep with dog bites are usually trimmed to the nearest joint which may be the entire hind leg, resulting in a significant reduction in dressed weight. Occasionally whole carcases are condemned when wounds are infected, and the animal is showing evidence of septicaemia (blood poisoning).
Of the 7.7 million sheep inspected in 2021/22, 3976 were affected by dog bites with 2582 (65 per cent) of those animals less than two years of age.
National Wild Dog Management coordinator Greg Mifsud said bite damage from working dogs were usually nips around the animal’s hocks, but not the substantial carcase damage caused by wild dog and dingo predation.
“Attacks from wild dogs, dingoes and their hybrids causes long-term scarring and tissue damage on the carcase body,” Mr Mifsud said.
“Once the hide comes off, most of the damage on those higher cuts would be historical when they were weaners.”
Mr Mifsud said secondary carcase damage from predation also included hydatids as wild dogs and dingoes were known carriers of the disease.
Developing as cysts in the lungs and liver of infected sheep, hydatids was found in 0.01pc of the carcases monitored.
Australian Wool Innovation program manager Vertebrate Pests Ian Evans said the dog bite damage recorded in the chiller, occurred on the body of the carcase only, minus the lower leg regions (canon bones, hocks etc).
Hence dog bite damage will always under report total bite damage, but does pick up damaged to valuable meat cuts
“Any bite marks from working dogs in the yards on animals is usually below the hocks and therefore is gone by the time it reaches the chiller floor as the lower joints are removed from the carcase,” Mr Evans said.
“These days people working in livestock industries are much more switched on to their stock handling and we have seen a revolution in low stress stock handling techniques and working dog competitions promoting the better use of dogs.
“What you get on a carcase is pretty much wild dog or dingo damage.”