Bobbycalf welfare improving
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