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April 10, 2019

Hundreds of New Zealand, Australian cows reportedly dead after delivery to Sri Lanka

Hundreds of Australian and New Zealand dairy cows, which were exported to Sri Lanka as part of an Australia-backed deal, have apparently died.  

ABC reports the deal has left farmers in Sri Lanka broke and in some cases, suicidal after the cows they paid for turned out to be overpriced, unhealthy and infertile.

A total of 5,000 cattle were sent to Sri Lanka by West Australian export company Wellard to help establish dairy farms there to reduce the country's dependence on imported milk powder.

The company has said the total number of cows which have died is around 9% - or 400 - and that those deaths were due to a "handful" of farmers which had ignored herd management advice.

The ABC reported that Sri Lankan farmer Amal Suriyege bought 200 cows last year, but the animals were in poor condition when they arrived.

He said he lost about 160 cows on his farm, Lammermoor Estate, followed by the death of another 180 calves, while the remaining 40 cows would have to culled as some were infected with mycoplasma bovis.

The milk produced from the cows was also selling for less than promised. Furthermore, the special imported feed recommended for the cows had ended up costing more than double the original, stated price.

Wellard maintains that all of the animals were inspected by vets and were pregnant when they left for Sri Lanka. Its executive Chairman, John Klepec, said similar programmes had been successfully implemented in a number of similar locations in the past.

Klepec added that Sri Lankan vets had certified the cows as disease-free when they arrived in the country.

"What happens post delivery of the cattle is subject to the farm management," he said. "Poor farm management practices will produce poor outcomes".
Under the programme, Wellard was contracted to export 20,000 cows into Sri Lanka, and has already exported 5,000, with the remaining 15,000 to be shipped within the next year.

However, the auditor-general of Sri Lanka has called for an immediate halt to the programme.

Gamini Wijesinghe said in a May 2018 report that farmers had suffered "financial difficulty and mental distress" and described the programme as an "unbearable burned to the Government".

The imported cows were not suitable to a Sri Lankan climate, Wijesinghe said, as their fertility rate was low and they were highly vulnerable to disease.

New Zealand animal welfare organisation SAFE's spokesperson Hans Kriek said the deal, "sanctioned by the New Zealand government", has "turned in a human and animal welfare disaster".

"The cruelty of live animal exports is well documented, and New Zealand's apparent lack of concern for the fate of animals once they leave our shores is deplorable," a release from SAFE stated. "Live export corporations are sending animals to far-flung countries where untold horrors could await them."

Kriek said he had written to New Zealand Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor, who had confirmed there are no plans to stop the export of breeding animals from New Zealand.

"The Government needs to urgently ban live exports, starting with an immediate halt on dairy cow export," Kriek said.

- 1 NEWS

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