Caring more for cows than women

The government’s winter grazing taskforce has made 11 recommendations.

The report says some things should never happen, including animals giving birth on mud and avoidable deaths in adverse weather events.

Highlighted in the report is the fact that there is no agreed set of standards among farmers for good animal welfare practice, and what some consider good practice is still exposing animals to poor welfare.

But Dairy NZ strategy and investment leader Dr Jenny Jago said her organisation, Beef+Lamb NZ and Federated Farmers had talked with the taskforce about the objectives being more practical for outdoor pasture-based systems.

Some of the recommendations made under the premise of ‘always’ and ‘never’ to take place is unrealistic in our pasture-based system,” said Jago.

“The report states farmers should always provide animals with a soft dry surface to lie on, which in an outdoor system subject to weather conditions, is simply not achievable even with the very best management.  A ‘never’ standard would apply if there was a little bit of rain or a lot of rain, which makes it impractical.

“Many farmers follow good management practice which is particularly important in very wet weather or snow events where a ‘plan B’ ensures farmers keep stock off the crop for periods of inclement weather.”…

Good management should not be up for debate, the problem is marrying that with what’s practical.

Sorting that out will take time:

Southland dairy farmer Jon Pemberton co-founded the farmer advocacy group Ag-Proud this winter. The recent winter grazing campaign by environmentalists in his region and some of the stress it created among farmers sparked the group’s formation.

Mr Pemberton said there were some sensible expectations around farming practices outlined in the report, including making sure stock were slowly transitioned from grass onto crops, to ensure there were no health complications.

But he said he did have some concerns around the practicality of providing dry-bedding for livestock at night and worried about what any new regulations could mean when farmers faced adverse weather events.

“There will be a lot of guys scratching their heads thinking how are we going to work around this … so I just do hope we are allowed the time to work through this,” he said

While not questioning the need for some farmers to improve management, we can question government policy that requires higher standards for cows than women:

This refers to the closure of the Lumsden Maternity Centre which forces women to travel to Invercargill to deliver their babies.

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