On farm life and deaths are messy

03/08/2010

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.

P.S.

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.


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