Vets tell farmers not to milk great growing season beyond limit
Waikato farmers enjoying record production levels should not extend their milking season to the point where it compromises animal welfare, according to visiting veterinary sector leaders.
New Zealand Veterinary Association chief executive Julie Hood and veterinary resources manager Wayne Ricketts were in the Waikato recently, visiting vet practices to discuss the latest veterinary issues and trends.
The association represents about 80 per cent of registered vets nationwide, with about 40 per cent of members in production animal practice.
Dairy cows should be dried off at a reasonable time to ensure their health and resilience is maintained, said Mr Ricketts, himself a vet.
‘‘It’s a balance between receiving income from milk production and not allowing cows to get into poor body condition. Going through winter and then calving is tougher for them if you milk too long.’’
Ms Hood said the association had done a lot of work with the dairy and meat industry, including Dairynz, Fonterra, Federated Farmers and the Government around lifting productivity on-farm.
‘‘There are a range of projects on the go under Primary Growth Partnership funding. They all interlock like a jigsaw puzzle. We’re working together to see how we can lift and maintain the quality of the produce we send offshore without compromising animal welfare.’’
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has developed useful tools to help vets and farmers respond to animal welfare issues.
The vet toolkit helps vets respond appropriately, in balancing their responsibilities to clients and as animal health professionals. The farmer toolkit helps farmers help each other if they see a potential animal welfare issue developing.
‘‘They’re preventive tools and they give good practical advice to help unravel the problems,’’ Ms Hood said.
For small animal vet practices, interesting international trends include a rising incidence of disease in companion animals, such as obesity, diabetes and hip replacements, mirroring trends in human health.
‘‘The key issues are people spoiling the animals and not going to the vet. We are gathering our own statistics on this before developing programmes to support vets and animal owners in New Zealand,’’ Ms Hood said.
Possible solutions include promoting regular vet visits as saving money in the long term, and the value of health insurance for pets.