NZ Lifestyle Block

Country Vet

- Words Dr Sarah Clews, BVSc

New animal welfare rules

New laws under the Animal Welfare Code will improve the lives of some favourite block animals.

Some of these new rules for animal welfare may surprise you. Or you may be relieved that the Government is taking action to improve the lives of stock, especially herd animals such as goats and alpaca. Ignoring these laws could mean a fine ranging from $300-$25,000, a court appearance, and losing the right to have animals in your care.

NEW RULE: camelids

If you're drawn in by the teddy-bear haircuts, big doe eyes, and endearing churbles of an alpaca or llama, the new rules state they must have a companion.

Camelids in the wilds of South America live in big herds ranging over vast areas, grazing long, hay-like grass.

These highly social animals can develop deadly stomach ulcers when they come under stress, and social isolation is stressful.

Alpaca and llama herds have a strict hierarchy. It's essential to have plenty of room for them to move around so they can work it out in a low-stress environmen­t.

Their diet needs to include plenty of fibre. Limit access to lush green grass to prevent gut problems and the formation of ulcers.

NEW RULE: goats

Tethered goats on roadsides have long been a common sight in New Zealand. However, this is changing as more people understand the needs of these smart, gregarious animals.

Goats are highly social, and isolation by tethering compromise­s their welfare. The new Animal Welfare Code's recommenda­tion is not to tether at all, but it does recognise limited exceptions.

You must make every effort to avoid permanentl­y tethering a goat. It's forbidden (and always has been) to tether pregnant or lactating does, kids, or a goat that is not in good overall health.

If circumstan­ces mean you need to temporaril­y tether a goat, it must:

• be checked at least once every 12 hours;

• have a collar that is comfortabl­e, light, and not too tight – chain collars are not acceptable due to their weight and tendency to cut into the animal's neck over time;

• have a quick-release mechanism on the tether for use in an emergency;

• not be able to move out onto a road;

• have an appropriat­e shelter that's always dry and protects them from extremes of hot and cold – half barrels on wet ground and iron shelters that heat up on sunny days aren't sufficient;

• be close to at least one other goat that it can see, communicat­e, and – if possible – interact with.

Tethering isn't good for the physical health of a goat. It prevents natural browsing behaviour – goats don't graze like cattle or sheep, preferring to eat over a much wider area. Close grazing can cause heavy parasite burdens, plant toxicities, and urinary crystals to develop.

Goats are best kept in a herd, on a high fibre diet, with a wide area to roam.

NEW RULE: tail docking and castration­s

The new regulation­s recognise that tail docking and castration are painful procedures. Ideally, they're best done 5-15 days after birth, so the animal gets time to drink enough colostrum and bond with its mother.

Recommende­d best practice under the Animal Welfare code has long been to provide pain relief to animals of any age during castration and tail docking. It's now mandatory to provide it to older animals.

Tail docking

• tail docking of lambs aged 6 months+ must be done by a veterinari­an with appropriat­e pain relief using a rubber ring or hot iron;

• tails should be docked below the caudal fold to ensure the remaining tail covers the vulva in ewes and is a similar length in males.


• Lambs, calves, and kids aged 6 months+ must be given local anaestheti­c before the procedure.

Note: high tension bands (bands that are slowly tightened) are illegal to use at any age without local anaestheti­c.

NEW RULE: dogs on open decks

It's not uncommon for dogs riding on the open deck of utes to be injured. They can fall, get hit by a flying object, or be dragged.

It is now forbidden to drive with your dog free to move about on the back.

Dogs on an open deck must be either:

• in a cage or crate, or;

• securely tied on a short leash that prevents the dog from falling over the side or getting its legs over the edge.

NEW RULE: transporti­ng calves

If you're going to buy a few beef calves to raise or get some for the school ag day, they must:

• be at least 4 full days (96 hours old) before being transporte­d;

• have no injuries, disease or impairment that could affect their welfare during the journey;

• have the ability to rise from lying, stand evenly on all four limbs, move freely, and protect themselves from being trampled or injured;

• have firm, worn flat hooves and a shrivelled navel cord.

Loading and unloading facilities must allow calves to walk onto and off a trailer or vehicle easily.

NEW RULE: where pigs like to live

Pigs don't appreciate filth and need a good-sized, clean, draft-free sleeping space.

The new rules say a shelter must:

• have adequate space for a pig/s to stand, lie, and turn around comfortabl­y – factor in more room if there are (or will be) piglets;

• be ventilated (without being draughty), clean, and dry.

Remove dung and urine regularly to prevent ammonia levels from building up.

MPI has a handy Minimum Space Calculator to help you work out how big a shelter must be:­are/codes/pig-space-calculator/

NEW RULE: dehorning

Horns are an extension of the skull and full of nerves, so you must use a local anaestheti­c when dehorning or disbudding.

Disbudding young calves (aged 2-4 weeks) and goat kids (aged 5-14 days) before the buds develop into fully-fledged horns is significan­tly less painful and traumatisi­ng than dehorning later (which must also be carried out using a local anaestheti­c).

However, the buds are still sensitive. A local anaestheti­c only lasts for 60-90 minutes, but you can also request longacting pain relief that lasts a couple of days. Horns must be removed, or at least kept

• short, before transporti­ng cattle.

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You can get pain relief options for stock of any age, even if you're castrating or docking an animal yourself.
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