First they came for the pigs . . .

Last year animal welfare activists targeted pig farming and they’ve had another go at it recently.

The grapevine warned us they would also be on the warpath during calving and lambing and they are.  TV1 news last night started with a story on inducing calves in dairy herds.

There are differing views on the practice – some vets say as long as it’s done properly it’s not inhumane, others oppose the practice.

Regardless of whether it is humane or not induction is  being phased out anyway.

The  reporter said cows are induced to get them producing milk earlier. That’s only part of the story – if cows are too late calving one season they’ll be later, sometimes too late, getting in calf for the following season.

The story also didn’t explain that cows are induced here because unlike most other countries we have seasonal milking.

Overseas where most of the milk produced is for the domestic market herds have some cows calving all through the year so it doesn’t really matter if the calves aren’t produced at a particular time. That happens with town supply herds here too but most of our herds produced milk for export.

Some farms milk through winter for export but most calve in spring, get the cows pregnant in early summer and stop milking by the end of May. This cycle follows grass growth – cows are producing milk when there’s more for them to eat. Grass growth slows or stops altogether over winter.

Cows which are too late for artificial insemination  or going to the bull or don’t conceive are usually culled.

When inductions stop altogether there will be more dry cows which will be sent to the works and farmers will be likely to increase the size of their herds to compensate.

No doubt some people will object to that too.

36 Responses to First they came for the pigs . . .

  1. That’s one hell of an invasive ‘intervention’ right there homepaddock – mass induction.
    You’ll have figures to show the mortality rate of calves compared with herds that are allowed to calve naturally?
    Talk about treating animals as a commodity!
    “You will give birth NOW (This chemical will ensure that you do!)

  2. pdm says:

    RG – mrs pdm was induced for the birth of at least two of our four children. No one was or is the worse for it.

    Surely the same applies for cows and the reasons explained by HP are logical and sensible provided everything is done professionally.

  3. Inventory2 says:

    You’re onto it Ele.

  4. Inventory2 says:

    Whoops; hit “submit comment” before I’d finished!

    And once again One News fells compelled to manufacture a story. It led the 6pm news last night ahead of the usual Sunday fare of murders (including that of an off-duty police officer), road accidents and other carnage. It’s led Breakfast news this morning as well, which suggests that it’s a TVNZ beat-up, just as the piggery story was two years ago.

    Peaking of piggeries, have you noticed that Keith Locke is being just alittle bit – ummm – hypocritical …

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2010/08/oh-keith.html

  5. DavidW says:

    The classic was a from the TV1 newsroom who wrote an item that was read with a straight face last night ..” There are fears that New Zealands dairy exports will be affected following TV One’s revelations about inductions of dairy cows” Now if ever there was a case of an idiot failing to look in the mirror that is it.

    What a mindless and ignorant item clearly designed to create shock and horror in the suburban living rooms of New Zealand without thought of the wider consequences, that is it.

    There is nothing that the dairy lobbies in US and Europe like more than to get hold of something like this to have another go at beating the NZ industry around the head with.

  6. Farmer Baby Boomer says:

    My understanding is that the industry has been working at reducing the number of inductions for some time now.
    Managers and Vets have been working together to identify nutritional and health issues which lead to excessively spread out calving.
    Certainly that is the case on farms that I have knowledge of. In most cases inductions have been phased out completely. The few still inducing are planning to stop.
    From experience I personally much prefer working with herds that are not induced.
    So it also becomes a consideration when thinking about the environment we are offering workers.
    This is an issue for dairying but I believe that it is being dealt with so those saying the story is a ‘beat up’ do have point. And the hypocracy will be shown up the next time there is a news item calling for increased access to abortion for our human population.

  7. pdm – I’m very happy that Mrs pdm was helped through a needed induction but I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s not and doesn’t need to be standard practice for humans.
    There are downsides to induction – witness those here who describe the moves by the industry away from the practice.
    I’ll bet that anyone involved in inducing cows could describe the pitfalls, but they won’t do that here, will they!

  8. Ele – can you clarify something for me – these inductions, are they really late-term abortions? Do the calves induced survive and are they raised to adulthood or are they sacrificial?
    I’m sure you’ll agree it’s an important distinction.

  9. Well, I’ve not heard anything from you Ele, regarding the issue of inducing dairy cows, so I’ve done some research myself.
    It’s a disgusting disgrace.

  10. homepaddock says:

    Robert, I don’t sit at the computer all day waiting to respond to comments.

    Most induced calves are dead at birth and most which survive are killed. Even if they went to term they’d probably be killed as boby calves anyway.

  11. So…the calves are sacrificed in order to bring the cows into milk production ..???

    You are wondering if the general public will find that objectionable?
    I think you’ll find they will, because it is.

    One question (and I thank your for your patience), why are ‘most calves dead at birth’?

  12. GP says:

    According to DairyNZ, 4.6 per cent of the nation’s 5.8 million dairy cows are given inductions.
    I think that’s 266,800.

  13. homepaddock says:

    Robert – many induced calves are dead at birth because they’re premature.

    What’s the difference between killling calves when they’re born and waiting a few days to do it at the freezing works providing it’s done humanely?

  14. Gravedodger says:

    So instead of an induction for a young cow that has slipped 1 cycle or a second cycle making it three or six weeks late in coming to the heard, and the reality that reversing it naturally is fraught unless every thing is perfect ie (nutrition, body weight, temperature and general health), we will just leave it “empty” and at the end of the season put an otherwise healthy young animal on a truck and send it to slaughter where it will have a bolt driven into its brain, be strung up by its back legs and then “stuck” to bleed out. It will then be skinned, gutted, chilled have its meat removed from the skeleton to be boxed and sent to the great satan where it will be blended with the excess fat from their feedlot beef and ground up for Hamburger and fed to overweight Americans.
    To the average citizen who only has to accept that the milk,cream, butter, cheese, beef etc. they happily buy at the supermarket is just sooo neat when the reality is a whole lot less glamorous and sometimes shocking when portrayed as it was last night. Imagine if you will if someone could defy the ethics and privacy we afford those who avail themselves of services in our medical system that are deemed necessary by a Dr or desirable by a patient and would turn ones stomach if broadcast on nat tv at evening primetime. however as that relates to “humans” we desist.
    Things such as culling male chickens when layers are required,female chicks when meat is the target, euthanising surplus dogs and cats, slaughtering valueless livestock in times of drought, slaughtering mongrel pups, killing animals that are uneconomic to treat and the many other practices that can be seen as necessary in a management sense will in the eyes of an all too ignorant public , when portrayed unsympathetically, seem barbaric, but in the mind of those charged with the responsibility of management, an unpleasant but necessary action and not one to be taken lightly. It is just the reality of farming for profit in the real world of modern agriculture and western lifestyle.
    One of the consequences of inducted birth that did exercise me personally in my previous life was when near full term induced calves came to market as 4 day olds when the enzyme development of their airway was compromised (a result of premature birth) and some unsuspecting buyer was left wondering why they died soon after purchase.
    A good reasoned response Ele, to what I saw as an emotional, unbalanced and unrealistic attack on a still developing farming practice that responsible farmers are continually trying to find alternative answers to.

  15. ploughboy says:

    robert could you tell me what you think is the best outcome for a calf.
    1/induced born dead
    2/shot at birth because it was born in oct/nov and no market to sell calf to.
    3/dies inside cow as it was going to calve to late so cow goes to works.
    4/no calf as cow cant be mated because she will calve to late.cow goes to works.
    these are your only options
    2/3/4 will raise costs which at the end of the day the consumer will pay for

  16. Rimu says:

    Is it the worst thing in the world if a cow occasionally skips a season? They live for up to 25 seasons, don’t they?

  17. homepaddock says:

    Rimu it wouldn’t be just one cow, depending on the size of the herd it could be dozens. It would cost a lot to feed all those animals when they weren’t producing milk.

  18. Rimu says:

    What’s that as a percentage? 5%?

  19. Ele – “many induced calves are dead at birth because they’re premature.”
    I see. That’ll be because of the induction, yes? Not a natural phenomenon.
    The difference, Ele, would be: the effects on the mother,
    the ethical problem involved with killing near-full-term calves while they are still in the womb
    Not something most people would cheer for, I’m guessing.
    Gravedodger – these issues should pass the ‘general public’ test, yes? Or should we keep them (us) in the dark – something that has been achieved up until to this time.
    ploughboy (ploughs and the use there-of have a lot to answer for btw) – if your animal management involves having to kill late-term animals, especially those higher up in the chain than fish and frogs, as a matter of convenience, you are doing something seriously wrong.

  20. homepaddock says:

    Rimu, it could be 10% for some herds.

    Robert, yes it’s not natural and it is an ethical issue which is why it’s being phased out.

  21. ploughboy says:

    would have preferred if you had answered the question instead of making statements about something you know nothing about.

  22. homepaddock – why was it ever ‘phased in’?
    It says something unpleasant about dairy farmers.
    ploughboy – your questions:

    robert could you tell me what you think is the best outcome for a calf.
    1/induced born dead
    * As Ele points out, ethically repugnant
    2/shot at birth because it was born in oct/nov and no market to sell calf to.
    *Further evidence of mismanagement (you shoot new-born calves? Not good information for your consumers, who after all, are the sourse of your livlihood.)
    3/dies inside cow as it was going to calve to late so cow goes to works.The farmer must be held to acount for this situation
    4/no calf as cow cant be mated because she will calve to late.cow goes to works.management issue. Farmers have a responsibility to protect their animals from unnecessary suffering, don’t they?
    these are your only options
    2/3/4 will raise costs which at the end of the day the consumer will pay for
    How about you ask the consumer whether they are willing to accept this? Hang on! That’s what is happening!
    This is good!

  23. Paul Corrigan says:

    So, Robert Guyton:

    You’re a dairy farmer?

  24. Paul – no, though I’ve been a worker on a dairy farm (Murchison), milking etc. and now live amidst dairy farms. I know many dairy farmers and have spoken to farmer organisations as an invited speaker on issues like this one.
    Why do you ask?

  25. homepaddock says:

    Why was it ever phased in? Lots of things which were once regarded as acceptable may not be when times & views change.

    2 A cow not conceiving early may have more to do with nature than management.
    3. Why should a farmer be held to account for a calf which dies before birth?
    4. this practice might not be regarded as ethical but vets say it’not an animal welfare issue.

  26. “this practice might not be regarded as ethical but vets say it’not an animal welfare issue.”

    It is Homepaddock, if the animal in question is a calf.

    Vets are complicit.

    Why should a farmer be held to account? Not for ‘natural attrition’ Home, but for mass killing of calves? Oh yes they should!

  27. homepaddock says:

    Robert – perhaps you missed my question – what’s the difference between killing a calf on the farm at birth and wiating a few days to kill it at the works?

  28. Homepaddock – one is condoned by the consumer/public, the other could well appall them. They’ve not had a chance to think about or discuss this new ‘revelation’.
    That’s the difference Ele.
    The sh*t may have hit the fan.
    Women in particuar won’t look favourably upon this ‘untimely ripping’.
    Eh!

  29. Paul Corrigan says:

    Robert:
    I asked because I wanted to know if you had any authority for what you’re saying. Whether you’re a ‘townie’ ignorant of farming but still having your say, or whether you’re in the business and know and understand something of it.

    So, having been a dairy farm worker you must know something about what you’re saying.

    So, in that case I would have thought you understood that where you have animals on farms you sometimes get dead ones. That’s a fact of life.

    I don’t see the difference between a cow aborting or miscarrying because of human intervention and a cow aborting or miscarrying because she munched on some macrocarpa. And Ele also makes a good point in the question she asked at 8.10pm.

    By the way, do you feel as strongly about aborted unborn children?

  30. ploughboy says:

    robert your were asked to pick the one that was least unpleasant for you.going by your reply i dont that you have worked on a farm in fact id pick you as a vegan

  31. homepaddock says:

    “one is condoned by the consumer/public, the other could well appall them.”

    Why?

    If it wasn’t done humanely it’s a problem wherever it happens but if it is done humanely the place it happens makes no differece to the calf – dead is dead.

  32. ploughboy – picking me as a vegan reveals you as a poor judge of both character and evidence. I’m not very inclined to regard your other claims as any better as a result.
    Homepaddock – you aren’t connecting with reality here – it’s not a plaintive ‘why’, the public aren’t going to like what they learn about this business. ‘Why’ doesn’t matter. You can plead for as long as you like that ‘there’s no difference’ but it isn’t going to wash.
    The slaughter of as-yet unborn calves isn’t in any way a good look for the dairy industry.
    I think you know that.

  33. Paul – you “don’t see the difference between a cow aborting or miscarrying because of human intervention and a cow aborting or miscarrying because she munched on some macrocarpa.”

    Take a deep breath Paul. Read what you’ve written and think about it for a moment. Try to imagine you are an ordinary member of the public.
    The ‘difference’ is intent.
    If a farmer intended to cause his herd to abort by feeding them macrocarpa, the ‘public’ would be apalled!
    In this case, dairy farmers are causing the deaths of in-utero calves intentionally.
    It’s a vital difference. Few customers will support intentional behaviour like that.
    As to the unborn human issue,it’s not an issue that I’ve devoted any time to at all and I’ll reserve my thoughts for now. This dairying practice is the issue of the moment.

  34. homepaddock says:

    Yes I know that, if you read my post and comments carefully you’ll see I never once said I think the practice is a good one. But nor do I regard it with the horror that the TV story induced in many viewers and I’ve been trying to explain why it happens.

  35. Phil says:

    I guess I’m a Townie – but I do have a connection with the Country through parents who lived in rural areas. Sure some practices may seem insensitive at best, but if people want to have their flat whites, eat Brie, have veal scallopine – then they have to buy in to the way agriculture works.

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