Video shows 'inappropriate' handling of stock on NZ Super Fund-owned farm

There are calls for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to review its investments in farming after video footage showing the rough handling of calves on one of its farms.

The video was released by environmentalist Geoff Reid and showed a calf collection on a Southland farm.

The farm is owned by the NZ Super Fund, and managed by farm investment managers FarmRight.

In a Facebook post, Reid raised concerns about the winter grazing conditions, and the treatment of the calves by workers.

"We urgently need NZ Super Fund to get out of this unethical business," he said.

"There are much wiser investment opportunities in New Zealand that don't harm animals or our environment," said Reid.

A petition launched by Reid calling for the fund to end all its investments in winter crop grazing has so far gathered 6400 signatures.

The petition calls on Finance Minister Grant Robertson to "stop investing any of the New Zealand Super Fund into farms that are winter crop grazing, divest from any that continue, and find sustainable alternatives immediately".

NZ Super Fund said the video does not reflect how staff are trained to manage stock.
NZ Super Fund said the video does not reflect how staff are trained to manage stock. Photo credit: Supplied/Geoff Reid.

In a statement, the NZ Super Fund said it had launched an investigation after seeing the footage.

"We're aware of video that shows inappropriate handling of stock on one of our farms," it said.

"This is below the standard expected by the Super Fund and FarmRight, and does not reflect how staff are trained to manage stock."

FarmRight had immediately launched an investigation with the contractor involved and had provided the video to the MPI/DairyNZ’s team responsible for animal welfare issues for its consideration. 

"The contractor commenced an employment investigation with the individual concerned."

The Super Fund had also engaged an independent veterinarian to review the specific incidence and broader on-farm practices. 

"MPI/DairyNZ has decided no further action is required at this stage and will be provided with the veterinarian's review," it said.

It also defended the use of winter crop grazing, and said it was an important practice that allows the management of stock. 

"All NZ Super Fund farms meet or exceed industry and/or regulatory standards, are subject to Farm Environment Plans and nutrient budgets that govern how winter crop grazing impacts on the environment."

In August the Agriculture Minister established a taskforce to look at the practice of winter grazing, after a series of images of mudbound cows on Southland farms were released.

He said the taskforce would respond to the animal welfare issues associated with winter grazing.

"Images of cows up to their knees in mud, unable to lie down and rest and calving in these conditions is unacceptable to me and I've heard loud and clear from the public that it's unacceptable to them too," he said.

The NZ Super Fund owns a portfolio of approximately $450m of New Zealand rural land, including 26 farms. 

This comprises approximately $340m in dairy farms, with Southland dairy making up approximately 45 percent of the total portfolio.