Surveillance to make sure farmers look after their animals properly recommended

Images showed cows up to their knees in mud, unable to lie down and rest.
Images showed cows up to their knees in mud, unable to lie down and rest. Photo credit: Supplied/Angus Robson.

A taskforce established by the Agriculture Minister to look at animal welfare issues around the practice of winter grazing has made a raft of recommendations.

They include expanding knowledge of barriers to adopting improved animal welfare practices, and more active surveillance to ensure animal welfare standards are being met.

Winter grazing sees stock given access to a measured area of forage and shifted in a controlled manner. But the practice has been under the spotlight after photos of mudbound cows in Southland and Otago were released by environmentalist Angus Robson. 

"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," Damien O'Connor said in August, setting up the taskforce in response.

The taskforce included industry group representatives and farmers, as well as Robson.

O'Connor said it's made 11 recommendations to improve animal welfare in intensive winter grazing farm systems.

The confronting images prompted the establishment of the taskforce.
The confronting images prompted the establishment of the taskforce. Photo credit: Supplied/Angus Robson.

 "I asked the taskforce to do a stocktake of the multiple initiatives that are already underway to promote good winter grazing and identify where we might work more together to improve practices."

A pan-sector action group would also be set up to implement the recommendations.

"Winter crop grazing is necessary in some parts of the country to provide enough feed for stock at a time when there's not a lot of pasture, but we must ensure farmers have the right tools and advice to ensure animal welfare.

"As a Government, we're committed to working alongside farmers to maintain their ability to export on our valuable New Zealand brand and open up new trading markets. Our international reputation depends on getting this sort of thing right, as does our social licence to operate within New Zealand."

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) would work with farmers and industry groups to ensure farmers get the help they need.

"I know that many farmers are already changing and adapting their practice and I thank them for the effort. We want to help in that work," said O'Connor.

"The next step will be the establishment of an action group to begin implementing the recommendations so we can see some progress next winter and beyond".

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