Dairy farm­ers urged to stop abort­ing calves

SPCA says tar­get for dairy cows should be set at zero per cent, Ali Tocker re­ports

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

The SPCA is call­ing for the dairy in­dus­try to keep the pres­sure on ‘‘ bad farm­ers’’ to continue the phase- out of the prac­tice of in­duc­ing abor­tions in dairy cows.

SPCA chief ex­ec­u­tive Robyn Kip­pen­berger said in­duc­ing abor­tions to make all cows in a herd milk at the same time was a cruel prac­tice, caus­ing un­nec­es­sary suf­fer­ing to the calves that died as a re­sult. ‘‘Zero in­duc­tions is the ul­ti­mate goal,’’ she said.

Lead­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions in the dairy in­dus­try signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing in June 2010, with the goal of re­duc­ing the num­ber of in­duced abor­tions each year. The or­gan­i­sa­tions, the Dairy Com­pa­nies As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand, NZ Ve­teri­nary As­so­ci­a­tion, Fed­er­ated Farm­ers dairy sec­tion and DairyNZ, set and mon­i­tor tar­gets.

Speak­ing on be­half of the group, DairyNZ strat­egy and in­vest­ment leader for sus­tain­abil­ity Dr Rick Prid­more said the part­ner­ship had been very suc­cess­ful in manag­ing a phase-down of in­duc­tions.

‘‘We started with a herd level tar­get of no more than 15 per cent of cows in­duced in a herd in 2010, which farm­ers and their vets met. They also met the 8 per cent [tar­get] last year and we’re now into the third sea­son of the re­duc­tion pro­gramme with a 4 per cent [tar­get] on farms.

‘‘It was a land­mark sea­son for the pro­gramme last year with the na­tional herd fig­ure of in­duced cows fall­ing to 2.9 per cent, be­low 3 per cent for the first time,’’ Dr Prid­more said.

Some of the ac­tions farm­ers and vets were tak­ing in­cluded be­ing ex­tra vig­i­lant around scan­ning and preg­nancy dates for their cows.

They were im­prov­ing herd mat­ing per­for­mance with the sup­port of the DairyNZ In­Calf pro­gramme and their vets, and more at­ten­tion was be­ing paid to feed­ing for con­di­tion-score gains as well as to culling pro­grammes.

Dr Prid­more said records from vets and dairy com­pa­nies would be col­lated af­ter calv­ing later this year, and the mem­o­ran­dum part­ners would meet to dis­cuss the process from there.

Ms Kip­pen­berger said the SPCA hoped the in­dus­try-driven ini­tia­tive would be suc­cess­ful.

‘‘ Farm­ers in­flu­enc­ing other farm­ers is key. In­duc­tions are a tes­ta­ment to bad farm­ing prac­tice.

‘‘The pub­lic have lit­tle stomach for the prac­tice, and farm­ers who use good prac­tice have lit­tle stomach for it.’’

The SPCA wants to see the in­dus­try set a new tar­get of 2 per cent as a first step. ‘‘With big herds even 2 per cent is a lot of calves. The SPCA’s ul­ti­mate goal is zero per cent,’’ Kip­pen­berger said.

The in­ten­tion

with

in­duc­tions was to kill the calf but the death of the calf did not al­ways hap­pen in­stantly, she said.

‘‘The in­duc­tions bring on labour so if the calf is born pre­ma­turely the like­li­hood of it sur­viv­ing for mo­ments is quite high, and suf­fer­ing be­cause of that.

‘‘If they’re born al­most to term they will sur­vive for a cer­tain amount of time and suf­fer need­lessly.

‘‘If it’s in a pad­dock and no-one is check­ing if it’s alive or dead, there’s suf­fer­ing. That’s the bad farm­ing we’re talk­ing about.

‘‘Some farm­ers are us­ing this as a man­age­ment tool, which it should never be.

‘‘ Good farm­ers don’t like it ei­ther, be­cause it re­flects badly on them. No-one wants their in­dus­try to be trashed by bad farm­ers.’’

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