New rules on bobby calves aim to cut deaths and cruelty

Gore farmer Bridget Lowry, who last year defended farmers' treatment of calves, with her white galloway calf Suzie.

Gore farmer Bridget Lowry, who last year defended farmers' treatment of calves, with her white galloway calf Suzie.

Farmers and transporters will have to abide by new rules over handling bobby calves to avoid a repetition of last year's controversial season.

The changes follow criticism by animal welfare groups that some of the approximately two million bobby calves sent to processing works each year are not dealt with humanely.

It was estimated that at least 5000 calves died en route to processing works last year.

Federated Farmers says farmers should be able to meet the regulations "because most of them are already there" but animal welfare group SAFE says the changes are a "nonsense" because most are current rules.

*Q&A: Bobby calves, New Zealand vs the rest of the world
*Heavy hitters come out to ban rough handling of bobby calves
*Bobby calf welfare in spotlight with new regulations proposed
*Almost 5000 bobby calves died last year while being transported


The four changes, which still have to go before Cabinet for final approval, are:

            * Requiring that young calves must be at least four days of age and physically fit before they are transported for sale or slaughter;

            * Setting a maximum duration of 12 hours journey time for young calves being transported for sale or slaughter;

            * Prohibiting the transport of young calves by sea across the Cook Strait;

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            * Prohibiting the killing of any calves by use of blunt force trauma, except in an emergency situation.

SAFE campaigns manager Mandy Carter said the rules already stated calves had to be four days old before being transported, and people were already prohibited from killing calves by "blunt force trauma".

The rule on a calf's age also did not match the practice in Europe where calves had to be at least 10 days' old.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said he wanted the rules in effect by early August. The calving season begins in the Waikato in early July and later regions one or two weeks later.

The Bobby Calf Action Group amended the rules. It is made up of DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Meat Industry Association, Federated Farmers, New Zealand Petfood Manufacturers Association, Road Transport Forum, New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Federated Farmers dairy group chairman Andrew Hoggard said the major reservation he had was with one of three further changes that are due to be introduced by 2017.

These require that young calves must be fed at least once in the 24 hours prior to slaughter,  that suitable shelter be provided for young calves before and during transportation, and at points of sale or slaughter, and that loading and unloading facilities be provided and used when young calves are transported for sale and slaughter.

Hoggard said he had problems with the wording of the proposed change over loading and unloading facilities.

The regulation states "that in circumstances where a young calf is transported for the purpose of sale or slaughter, facilities must be provided and used to enable that calf to walk safely on to and off transport through its own action".

Hoggard said most trucks were more than 1.2 metres above ground.

"Are they expecting farmers to build a loading facility for the stock truck and a separate one for a utility or trailer. The onus is on farmers to build a loading ramp or platform that is the same height of the truck," he said.

He didn't expect anyone would be "pinged" by the rule but MPI should get the wording correct.

There was also an issue about the cost of building a ramp.

"Many district councils have rules around building anything over 1 metre high, you need a building consent. We've raised that with MPI - no-one wants farmers to pay more for the paperwork than for the cost of the timber," Hoggard said.

DairyNZ's Chief Executive Tim Mackle said: 

"We saw some unacceptable behaviour last year and we are committed to eliminating it from the industry."




 - Stuff


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