Bob­by­calf wel­fare im­prov­ing

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Big Test -

AGOVERNMENT RE­PORT SHOW­ING AN im­prove­ment in the wel­fare of bobby-calves, de­spite dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, is a feather in the cap for trans­port op­er­a­tors, Road Trans­port Fo­rum chief ex­ec­u­tive Ken Shirley says. The re­port, re­cently re­leased by the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI), shows a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in the mor­tal­ity rate of bob­by­calves – from 0.25% in 2015 to 0.12% across the nearly two mil­lion calves pro­cessed last year.

To put this fur­ther into con­text, the mor­tal­ity rate in 2008 was 0.68%, over five times higher than what it is now.

“Stock trans­port op­er­a­tors have put a lot of ef­fort into im­prov­ing the wel­fare out­comes for bobby-calves,” says Shirley.

“The bobby-calf run is tra­di­tion­ally a tough, dirty, thank­less task – so driv­ers must be recog­nised for their part in the 2016 re­sults,” he adds.

Last year the Gov­ern­ment an­nounced a new set of reg­u­la­tions to gov­ern the han­dling and treat­ment of bobby-calves fol­low­ing the re­lease of video footage of calves abused and mis­han­dled prior to slaugh­ter.

The first four sets of reg­u­la­tions came into force on Au­gust 1 last year and in­cluded a calf ’s fit­ness for trans­port, a 12-hour max­i­mum du­ra­tion for trans­port, pro­hi­bi­tion of killing by blunt force trauma ex­cept in emer­gency cir­cum­stances, and the pro­hi­bi­tion of sea trans­port across Cook Strait.

MPI’s re­port recog­nises the is­sues that trans­port op­er­a­tors face in han­dling calves from many dif­fer­ent sources and hav­ing lit­tle con­trol over the con­di­tion of the calves they’re ex­pected to pick up.

The re­port also states that the num­ber of un­fit calves be­ing left be­hind by trans­port op­er­a­tors in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly in 2016, con­tribut­ing to the de­crease in mor­tal­ity rates.

“I’m glad that MPI has ac­knowl­edged the dif­fi­cul­ties that trans­port op­er­a­tors face. In say­ing that there is still an un­rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion that the trans­porter can ad­e­quately as­sess an an­i­mal’s wel­fare in the few mo­ments it’s be­ing loaded onto a truck – of­ten in ad­verse con­di­tions,” says Shirley.

Since the new reg­u­la­tions took ef­fect, trans­porters have been is­sued with 127 warn­ing let­ters and 10 $500 in­fringe­ments. Says Shirley: “When spread across two mil­lion calves, this is a pretty good re­sult.

“How­ever, there re­mains a se­ri­ous in­con­sis­tency with the penal­ties im­posed on farm­ers, who were only is­sued with 208 warn­ing let­ters and a pal­try two in­fringe­ments. Those two in­fringe­ments went to the one farmer.

“I do not ac­cept that only one dairy farmer in the whole coun­try de­served in­fringe­ment penal­ties for pre­sent­ing un­fit calves last year. There has been an in­con­gruity in the way the rules have been ap­plied to dif­fer­ent sec­tors,” says Shirley.

“Farm­ers have the abil­ity to in­spect their an­i­mals over a much greater length of time than trans­port op­er­a­tors do – in an en­vi­ron­ment more con­ducive to de­tect­ing prob­lems – so it makes sense that they ac­cept a

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