November 1, 2019


New Zealand's updated code of welfare for dairy cattle not expected to affect operations significantly



Changes to New Zealand's code of welfare for local dairy cattle are not likely to have an impact on farming operations in South Canterbury, according to news reports.


The amendment, which took effect last month, requires farmers to address behavioural needs and off-paddock systems including feed-pads, stand-off pads, wintering pads, and loose-housed and free-stall barns.


"Meeting behavioural needs is essential for dairy cattle welfare," National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) chairperson, Dr. Gwyneth Verkerk, said.


"It is very important that dairy cattle can lie down and rest in all management systems, including on pasture, on crops and in off-paddock facilities.


"Dairy cattle like to lie down where it is comfortable and dry. They refuse to lie down on hard, wet or muddy ground and can become stressed as a result."


Federated Farmers South Canterbury dairy chairman Ads Hendricks said since South Canterbury was not a high rainfall area in most years, these changes, that were developed by NAWAC, would not affect dairy farmers in the region as it would for other areas.


"Higher rainfall areas like Southland, West Coast and some North Island areas could have issues with this, and a working group has been set up to improve wintering practises in these areas."


Hendricks said the amendment would encourage farmers on the margins to get into line with this practice.


"Most changes in the new rule from MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) were already best practice for dairy farmers anyway. We ourselves use a paddock that needs resowing as a sacrifice area to accommodate the animals so they have enough space to lay and socialise giving them more space if weather conditions require this."


Farmers who supply giant dairy co-operative Fonterra and those who are insured would automatically have had to adhere to these regulations when signing on, Hendricks said.


"As part of your dairy diary for Fonterra, you have to comply to rules around these issues and have to fill in your practices as part of your annual farm audit/inspection by Ag-assure independent dairy assessor.


"Synlait has similar systems to assess their suppliers and also has different acknowledgement standards that affect their pay-out."


He said Federated Farmers could not penalise or judge members who did not comply with regulations.


"As Federated farmers are a member-only group, it is the free choice of farmers to be a member and support the work FF does. We give balance to discussions around rule making from the practical side of farming.


"Fonterra and Synlait have greater powers there. Dira (Dairy Industry Restructuring Act) made it in the past not possible for Fonterra to stop milk collection because of their obligation under Dira to pick up any milk in NZ. But the new proposed Dira gives Fonterra more options to sway non-compliant suppliers and even deny you as a supplier."


Chief veterinary officer at New Zealand Veterinary Association Dr Helen Beattie said the best way to improve the health and welfare of livestock was for veterinarians and farmers to work together to ensure animals' needs are provided for.


"Where possible, and so long as there is no suspected offence, it is advantageous for veterinarians to be on-farm and providing advice and support to farmers to improve the health and welfare of animals under their care," she said.


Beattie said where offences did occur that result in unnecessary and unreasonable pain and distress, the NZVA supported MPI and the SPCA to undertake appropriate enforcement steps to ensure compliance.


"Much of this will be educative and have farmers voluntarily engaging to improve their animals' situation. Where this isn't the case, escalating enforcement through the compliance model known as VADE (voluntary, assisted, directed, enforced) is supported by the NZVA, in order to protect animal welfare."


- The Timaru Herald / Stuff