Farming groups support establishment of winter grazing taskforce

One of the photos showed a cow which had given birth in the mud.
One of the photos showed a cow which had given birth in the mud. Photo credit: Supplied/Angus Robson.

Two major farming sector groups have welcomed the announcement of a taskforce on the practice of winter grazing.

However, the groups say the majority of farmers take great pride in caring for their animals and the environment. 

The issue has been under the spotlight after photos of mud-bound cows in Southland and Otago were released by environmentalist Angus Robson.

The Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor ordered the establishment of the winter grazing taskforce, calling the images unacceptable.

The taskforce would bring together vets, industry leaders and officials to identify the issues and look at solutions. 

"Images of cows up to their knees in mud, unable to lie down and rest, and calving in these conditions is unacceptable to me," said Damien O'Connor.
"Images of cows up to their knees in mud, unable to lie down and rest, and calving in these conditions is unacceptable to me," said Damien O'Connor. Photo credit: Newshub

In a joint statement DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand said they supported building on the significant efforts already underway to eliminate poor practices.

“No-one accepts poor winter grazing practices. Our organisations are firm on this,” said DairyNZ strategy and investment leader, Dr Jenny Jago. 

“Dairy and beef sectors have a role to play in protecting our waterways and, therefore, ensuring good practice winter grazing on farms is crucial to support the environment and keep our animals healthy,” she said.

Dr Jago said much work has been taking place to address poor winter grazing practices and she was encouraged by the progress that was being made, but there was still work to be done.

“The vast majority of farmers take great pride in caring for their animals and the environment. There’s been significant investment into on-farm initiatives which protect the environment and animal welfare, and we will continue to expand on that.

The photos were released by environmentalist Angus Robson.
The photos were released by environmentalist Angus Robson. Photo credit: Supplied/Angus Robson.

“We have been working together, and with central and regional government, to review and improve the resources available for farmers, while also supporting improved crop grazing practices on farms and reinforcing compliance.”

A pan-sector collaborative programme had included farmer-facing extension, which sets clear practice standards to protect the environment and support animal health and wellbeing.

“In the last year, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand have had a particular focus on good management practices for winter cropping, through workshops and events with farmers,” said Beef + Lamb New Zealand GM for North Island, Matt Ward.

The sector was looking to underpin the work through commitments by DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand for all farms to report under farm assurance programmes or sustainability frameworks.

“This would ensure animals are well cared for and farmed in a way that has the best outcomes for the environment – water quality is a community issue and we all have a part to play. We aren’t at the destination yet, but our farmers are rapidly making changes to protect the environment and their animals,” said Ward.

He said often poor grazing practices could be a sign of other issues at play.

"Which is why we encourage farmers to talk to the farmers involved and get in touch with their industry good organisation, Federated Farmers or the Rural Support Trust, who can also contact the farmer in question and provide support.”

The taskforce would meet for the first time in the next few weeks and to present back to Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor by the end of August.

Newshub.

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