On farm life and deaths are messy

In town life is clean.

Food comes from supermarkets in hygienic packages.

On farms life is a bit messier.

Food comes from living, breathing animals.

Life here is dirty and dusty, muddy and bloody and sometimes it’s not just life but death.

I don’t know any good farmer s who are complacent about animal deaths, whether they happen naturally or by human intervention to prevent suffering. But they can’t afford to be squeamish either.

TV1’s  Sunday evening news story on cow inductions was designed to be squeamish.

 Breakfast yesterday morning added some rational comments (though Pippa’s statement that if a cow didn’t calve in time “he or she” wouldn’t be able to get in calf again in time for next season shows a gap in her understanding of biology which ought to be addressed).

Last night’s news continued the story as if nothing was being done to change the practice.

It is, inductions which happen to a minority of cows on a minority of farms are being phased out and DairyNZ said the industry is united behind its plan:

Dr Rick Pridmore, Strategy and Investment Leader for Sustainability at DairyNZ says earlier this year the programme was revised to move the reduction target from a national herd level to targets at an individual farm level. These targets reduce over a three year period.

“The change to individual herd targets will focus efforts on the small tail of the industry who are yet to reduce their use of the practice. This small tail represents only 4.6% of the nation’s dairy cows.”

Letters were sent out to every dairy farmer in the country in early June telling them of this change. The industry stakeholders backing the programme are the New Zealand Veterinary Association, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers Dairy and the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand.

The industry is collecting data on this procedure from all dairy farms as part of their annual farm drug use audit. Induction records will be sighted and checked, and the percentage of animals induced will be reported, with cross-checks back against veterinary records. In addition, any farm which does not meet the targets will be notified to their supplier through their veterinarian.

Dr Pridmore says the programme is phased over three years so farmers who use the practice can be supported as they change their farm system by making alternative stock management decisions, which is a complex and lengthy process for many.

“The key advantage of this new process is that we will be able to identify these businesses so we can support them with the InCalf educational programme as well as through the dairy companies and local veterinarians.”

Dr Pridmore says the practice is allowable under the Animal Welfare Act and the Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare so long as it is carried out by a veterinarian according to the guidelines set out in the agreed Operational Plan.

“The practice is not an issue of animal welfare, it is an ethical issue and one the industry has proactively reduced since the 1990s so that we are now dealing with the tail-end.”

 That last sentence is important: “”The practice is not an issue of animal welfare, it is an ethical issue . . .”

Ethics change. What was once regarded as acceptable is no longer and it’s being phased out.  Though like rivettingKate Taylor I do wonder what’s the story ? and note a double standard.


The people who say they’ll give up milk  milk on the strength of this story should have nothing to worry about. If the milk comes from town supply herds, they calve all year round and wouldn’t normally be induced.

16 Responses to On farm life and deaths are messy

  1. […] On farm life and deaths are messy (via Homepaddock) In town life is clean. Food comes from supermarkets in hygienic packages. On farms life is a bit messier. Food comes from living, breathing animals. Life here is dirty and dusty, muddy and bloody and sometimes it's not just life but death. I don't know any good farmer s who are complacent about animal deaths, whether they happen naturally or by human intervention to prevent suffering. But they can't afford to be squeamish either. TV1's  Sunday ev … Read More […]


  2. Adolf Fiinkensein says:

    It’s a long time since I have had direct involement in the industry so please correct me if I’m wrong but I thught I recalled that the practice of induction tends to daversely affect the cows future productivity and was generally avoided if possible.

    Further I wonder with the prevalence today of all round milking whether these cows more profitable could be sold to winter milkers.

    Lastly, it say much about the moral fibre of our nation that we can slaughter eighteen thousand human babies every year withut blinking and then make a song and dance about a few aborted calves.


  3. Bearhunter says:

    What amazes me is that this is treated as news. News to TVNZ perhaps, but not to anyone who’s had any contact with the dairy industry.


  4. homepaddock says:

    Adolf – yes it is avoided if possible and your last point is a valid one which had also crossed my mind(if you haven’t already read it, Kate’s post also mentions that).

    Bearhunter – quite. Had the process not been being phased out it might have been news, but not now.


  5. You can’t understand why it’s news guys?
    The public are only just now learning about the practice and they find it repugnant.
    Your saying that it’s being phased out is a lame response, people are thinking, “Why were you doing it at all, it’s repulsive. How long has this been going on and why was it being hidden from us?”
    What you are missing perhaps, is that the practice is seen as a stain on dairying and it’s one that women in particular are revolted by. Your argument that ‘the days of inducing are gone’ would be effective if the news was that it has been stopped point blank, but as you know, that option was rejected by farmers and it’s to be ‘phased out’. Sounds like a pig industry ‘solution’.
    As Mr English and Mr Key would say, not a good look.


  6. Adolf Fiinkensein says:

    Robert Guyton, you are wrong. ‘The public’ as you put it might be a few cloistered weeping willows from within the halls of left wing academe but as far as I know the practice of aborting cows has never been hidden. Everybody who lives outside a a major city would have been aware of it for years.

    There is much more secrecy applied to the use of abortion to kill humans than its use to kill calves.

    You are the exemplar of what is wrong with NZ if you hold that women are revolted by one but not the other.


  7. Adolf – as I don’t ‘hold that women are revolted by one and not the other’, I’m not</i. as you suggest, 'the exemplar of what is wrong with New Zealand'.
    I'm also not 'wrong' with regard who it is that find the induction of calves repugnant. If you believe that it is merely 'a few cloistered weeping willows', then you are misinformed and sadly astray in your assessments. However, if you
    are correct, the dairy industry, dairy farmers and bloggers like Ele have nothing to worry about, have they.


  8. Oops! Forgot one of these


  9. Gravedodger says:

    The socialists of course would pass a law to prohibit it and that would be applauded by the sycophants whereas the industry has met what is in fact a purely ethical problem, not a pure animal health problem, that requires some qualified vetinary knowledge to manage so as to limit the hormonal effect on the reproductive health of the cow and still get the lactation underway.
    The whole point of the practice was to counter the all too common problem of the “creep” to a later calving due to adverse weather and nutrition among other factors that have an impact on profitable operation of a modern dairy farm. With a gestation period of nine months the three months window to reimpregnate the cow is easily dissipated and it is worse with Thoroughbred horses (11 month gestation) with the August 1 birthdate mandated, and absolutely no problem with sheep with a five month gestation.
    That the dairy industry taking the steps outlined by HP, RVKT and others it was an indictment on the media and in Particular TVNZ that they made absolutely no effort to even mention this fact.
    RG With your claim to have knowledge of the industry you are being disingenuous at the very least to use the emotive and totally unbalanced view portrayed in their coverage to date, to “give the bash” to one of the few income streams we have at present to maintain our standard of living as a nation for what I assume are purely political reasons.


  10. GD – re your last sentence, you assume wrongly.
    To portay the issue as ‘purely an ethical problem’ is laughable, as if ‘ethical’ matters matter little.
    That’s where you are wrong and that’s where you fail to see the problem.
    If a practice is unethical, you’re going to have to expect trouble and it’s here now. Not an animal health issue? I don’t believe for a moment that there are no health issues for the cows that result from being ‘cleaned out’ like this.


  11. Gravedodger says:

    RG maybe that is why the procedure is managed by a veterinarian.
    As to the “problem” as you call it, a reasonable person reading HP’s post and having an understanding of the history here would accept the “industry is taking acceptable steps to move on FROM it.
    If you accept that the TV presentation was balanced and a fair portrayal, and your comment on my last sentence would indicate that, then I am more certain of its accuracy.


  12. GD – I didn’t see the TV presentation and can’t say whether it was balanced or not.
    The industry may indeed be stepping away from IT, but a reasonable person might ask, why were they stepping in it at all, given that it’s ethically repugnant.
    A vet might be involved in the injecting of cows, but can you tell me, is he/she there when each prem calf, dead or alive, is delivered out onto the cold ground?


  13. Gravedodger says:

    RG The vet will not be present at the delivery of the aborted foetus but a prudent manager of valuable animals will be monitoring the Remnant of the calving herd in my experience but the reality will be that the occasional live birth will not always be attended straight away. Have you any anecgotal evidence of what happens at the abortion clinic, do they shoot the live foetus, bash it or leave it on a bench while they attend the mother (unpleasant analogy but relative IMO).
    With the passage of time and publicity, particularly with the advent of mass communications and the interwebby thing, an awful lot of what once passed muster as acceptable is now regarded rightly or wrongly as patently unacceptable. Mulesing for merinos a classic case in the modern animal welfare debates. I have seen some really graphic anti mulesing publicity and the real thing and compared to a well managed sheep dieing from dehydration as a consequence of chronic flystrike I recall a very pithy comment from a no nonsense sheep owner, mid 20th century, “If the good lord had a maggoty a**ehole he would not have created blowflies”. Mulesing is a very unpleasant operation and gives a severe check in the young merino’s development but as a non chemical intervention in flystrike control I see it as more humane on balance. Likewise castration and dehorning are operations, that portrayed in the worst possible light would be ruled unacceptable whereas the alternatives can be catastrophic. eg males fighting to destruction, unwanted pregnancy in young females, goring, broken necks when horned animals fall at speed and any of the other hazards that domesticating wild animals can lead to.
    While I accept your abhorance of the practice of inducing cows as a management tool, I, after a lifetime of watching respected and too often loved animals leave this world for what ever reason or circumstance, far too often to be as upset as you in the case here. I personally have a similar sentiment with euthanising pet dogs when a natural walk with a much loved pet, a pause as it eats a morsal on the ground and a totally unexpected well placed bullet in the back of its head resolves matters in a far more humane way than a visit to that distinctive smelling clinic that is only visited in times of trouble, IMVHO.
    I would quote my very humane but practical and loved father “where there are live ones there will always be dead ones”, and those dead ones would always be upsetting to most in whatever circumstance. How often do we witness soldiers dieing on live primetime TV?, it is relevant.


  14. Gravedodger – yours is a very well considered and thoughtful post and I enjoyed ‘reading your thoughts’.
    I think I see what it is you are saying and naturally enough feel obliged to challenge some of it. While I don’t think you are wrong in anything you say, I do think that there are other ways of viewing what you express.
    Mulesing. You see it as a ‘necessary evil’ perhaps? Better than the fly-struck alternative. I say, if fly-strike is inevitable in a human-designed system, there is a problem with the overall concept – sheep being raised in an environment they shouldn’t inhabit.
    These issues, btw, do not ‘upset’ me. I look at them logically. I’m not a ‘rabid’ anything, or a ‘bleeding heart’. I haven’t a vested interest either and in this instance, I sense embarrassment from the fraternity involved.


  15. simfarmer says:

    Inductions tend to increase the anoestrus interval after calving due to problems such as RFM and often there is not that much time caught up getting the cows back in sync for spring calving. The cows often to don’t milk very well either anyway. Inductions are simply a tool of the past and a pretty good indication of poor management if carried out today.

    Moving cows that had failed to breed within the 365 day cycle to autumn calving herds isn’t going to help the problem as it increase’s the prevelance of genetics unsuitable to a seasonal calving system in the national herd. (Unless subsequently mated to a beef breed and genetics not carried on). The cow would also have to milk for 12 to 13 months and been in late lactation in the middle of winter when its physiological drive to produce milk would be low and feed cost are at there highest. Or a long dry period which tends to wreck cows as fat replaces secretory tissue in udder. Therefore profitablity dubious.

    The widespread use of overseas HF (holstein-fresian) gentics during the 90’s hasn’t helped the scenario as these cows have been bred to perform in a year round calving pattern when PPAI (the time to cycling after calving) isn’t as importatant as the lactation may last up to 500 days (fed concentrates) compared to our NZ system of 220 – 300 day lactations based on seasonal pasture supply.

    There are other options available to compact calving spread (which hence increases days in milk and makes a better fit with seasonal pasture growth. Such as:

    – Short gestation semen
    – Reducing the average PPAI (CIDRS etc)
    – Ovulation synchronisation for planned start of mating.
    – General animal health monitoring of calving difficulties, condition, feeding and mineral status.

    Overall inductions are not the norm and not common on dairy farms in NZ and there are plenty of other options to fix the problem before it starts. Inductions are now basically a none issue in the industry as it hardly ever happens. For my ten cents worth


  16. Gravedodger says:

    Simfarmer, Thankyou for the additional info. Your comments on the HF bloodlines confirms my suspicians of imported genetics often being unsuitable in the NZ seasonal farming situation and your comments confirm the progress to bringing a solution to the clearly out dated Use of induction.
    The shame is that had TVNZ had the services of a truly investigative journalist instead of relying on the purveyors of “Tabloid journalism”, then pressure would have been applied to the recaltracents in the industry who provided the opportunity for the beatup.
    You have confirmed my belief that one can learn a little more each day by using the mouth and the ears in the ratio provided ie 1 to 2. You seriously undervalued your comment, it was woth at least twice that


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