Dairy farmers urged to stop aborting calves
SPCA says target for dairy cows should be set at zero per cent, Ali Tocker reports
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.
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.’’