Sir Henry back­lash in­duces sup­port


The dairy cow sci­en­tist who pi­o­neered in­duc­ing late calv­ing dairy cows at Ruakura 40 years ago says the im­pend­ing ban will re­sult in preg­nant cows be­ing sent to the meat­works.

Bri­tish shop­pers have threat­ened a boy­cott of New Zealand dairy prod­ucts af­ter Fon­terra chair­man Sir Henry van der Hey­den ad­mit­ted the prac­tice to raise pro­duc­tion on his four Pu­taruru farms.

It is against the prin­ci­ples of in­dus­try best prac­tice and will be out­lawed by mid-2012.

Dr Robert Welch, who pi­o­neered the prac­tice at Ruakura in the 1960s with the late Sir Gra­ham Lig­gins and in­tro­duced it to farm­ers in the early 1970s, said the up­com­ing ban was driven by mar­ke­teers.

Dr Welch said the mar­ket­ing peo­ple at the New Zealand Dairy Board, which pre­ceded Fon­terra, did not like the idea and nei­ther do their con­tem­po­raries who are wor­ried what it will do to New Zealand’s im­age over­seas.

‘‘The mar­ket­ing peo­ple, rightly or wrongly, have de­cided if we go on with the prac­tice here peo­ple are against it. That will be at the cost of los­ing more good cows from our dairy farms,’’ said Dr Welch, who lives in Hamil­ton.

‘‘The idea came out of the vet­eri­nary pro­fes­sion.’’

By 1971, when the prac­tice had been widely ac­cepted in the dairy in­dus­try, about 300,000 of New Zealand’s two mil­lion cows were in­duced. These days, Dr Welch said, it was about 150,000 cows of the four mil­lion-strong herd that were in­duced. ‘‘We are not killing the foe­tus, we are kick-start­ing a nat­u­ral process.’’

Dr Welch said his stud­ies showed the calves of cows in­duced three weeks be­fore they were due had just as much chance of sur- vi­val as calves which went full term.

Mean­while Sir Henry has courted a groundswell of sup­port from farm­ers who prac­tise in­duc­ing on their farms.

Lloyd Down­ing, vice-chair­man of the Na­tional Agri­cul­tural Fiel­d­ays and a Mor­rinsville dairy farmer, said an­i­mal wel­fare was put above hu­man wel­fare in New Zealand.

‘‘It’s okay to pull ba­bies out of women – we do 18,000 a year – but we are not al­lowed to abort an an­i­mal,’’ he said. ‘‘If you want us all to be ve­gans that’s fine.’’

About 30 of Mr Down­ing’s 550 cows were in­duced this sea­son.

‘‘It’s more than we nor­mally do. I can­not say that ev­ery one was eu­thanased, the ma­jor­ity of them were – 95 per cent would have been. If we had not in­duced those 30 cows they would have been sent to the South Is­land, stuck on a truck for 14 hours, or they would have had their heads cut off,’’ he said.

‘‘We are get­ting over three dry years and this coun­try is in a deep de­pres­sion and we need to make ev­ery dol­lar we can. Bobby calves are worth so lit­tle, on av­er­age $17. When it’s il­le­gal we will move on to some­thing else.’’

Ali­son Dewes, a Waikato vet who has been dairy farm­ing for 20 years, said apart from the ob­vi­ous wel­fare con­sid­er­a­tions the eco­nom­ics of the prac­tice alone would make any think­ing farmer se­ri­ously con­sider whether it was worth it.

‘‘Dr John Mor­ton’s work in Vic­to­ria, Aus­tralia, demon­strated that there was a loss of 9 per cent, or $180 per cow, along with $40 plus costs of treat­ment. There would have to be a pretty strong case to do it,’’ she said.


UN­DER FIRE: Sir Henry van der Hey­den has been un­der fire in the past few weeks af­ter rev­e­la­tions cows were in­ducted on his Pu­taruru farms.

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