Farmers reminded of animal welfare responsibilities as winter kicks in

Animal welfare laws require livestock to have access to areas free of surface water and mud, and appropriate shelter from adverse weather.
Animal welfare laws require livestock to have access to areas free of surface water and mud, and appropriate shelter from adverse weather. Photo credit: Getty

Animal welfare authorities are reminding livestock farmers of their responsibilities as winter starts to bite.

There's been heavy snow, hail and rain torrents in parts of the country and Metservice is forecasting more heavy rain, strong gusty winds and thunderstorms in the coming week.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) animal welfare manager Kate Littin said this time of year could be challenging for farmers, with wet and muddy conditions increasing risks to the welfare of their livestock.

"Many farmers, particularly in Southland and Otago, choose to break feed stock on crop over the winter months. It's a great way to provide food for animals and protect pastures, but does require careful planning and good stockmanship to avoid welfare risks that wet weather can bring," she said.

She said New Zealand's codes of animal welfare require livestock to have access to areas free of surface water and mud, and appropriate shelter from adverse weather.

"Animals will refuse to lie down on wet ground and can then become stressed, stop eating and are more susceptible to lameness," said Littin.

However she said there were a number of ways farmers can mitigate risks to animal welfare over winter.

"If there is a spell of extreme weather or prolonged wet conditions, you may need to move your stock off the crop to drier land, and you should plan for this possibility - having a 'plan B' is the key."

"Clean drinking water must be available for animals at all times. Owners are still responsible for the welfare of their stock while they are off-farm for winter grazing and should check on the conditions, including their access to shelter and water."

MPI recommended that farmers should talk to their vet for help with planning and any animal health concerns. 

Resources to help farmers with their winter grazing management are also available online from DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand.

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