Vets tell farm­ers not to milk great grow­ing sea­son be­yond limit

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - By ALI TOCKER

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.

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