Taranaki road transport boss says bobby calf video is positive
A video purporting to show poor handling of bobby calves being loaded on to stock trucks has been rubbished by Taranaki road transport boss Tom Cloke.
Cloke said the footage released by Farmwatch this week failed to show the truck crates contained rubber mats to cushion the calves' landing when they were rolled aboard.
He wants the public to realise the bobby calves weren't being rolled onto a hard grating.
He said the video was in fact a good illustration of the huge strides made in the collection of bobby calves in recent years, and particularly since DairyNZ, the transport sector, meat processors, dairy companies, Federated Farmers and the Ministry for Primary Industries began collaborating on managing it properly.
His view was the footage showed bobby calf collection in a positive light because the trucking companies' staff were handling the animals correctly and the truck crates were clean and well-presented.
Cloke said Taranaki companies Maurice Vickers Transport and Sandford's were bitterly disappointed at being singled out and portrayed in the footage as abusing animals when in fact they were following best practice.
As far as he was aware, no farmers were being prosecuted this year for presenting animals unfit for transport. Animals presented by farmers as unfit was less than 1 per cent of the 2 million transported this season.
He said next season's requirement for loading platforms on farms would bring further improvements. "Drivers can be lifting four tonnes of calves a day - at 40kg a calf. So a flat loading platform will reduce the lifting and will be better for calves and for drivers."
Taranaki Federated Farmers dairy chairman Donald McIntyre also said the Farmwatch footage did not show animals being mishandled.
The video showed the protocols for loading bobby calves on to trucks were being followed because the animals were being rolled into the crate.
Statistics would show whether bobby calves arriving at the freezing works for processing were injured. Bobby calves with bruises or other injuries would be rejected. "And we're not seeing animals being condemned," he said.
Farmers were mindful of diminishing returns for bobby calves and wanted to be sure they arrived at the freezing works in the best possible condition.
"Farmers care for their animals and they want them to live a healthy and safe life," he said. "So they follow the rules."
Likewise, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said the workers in the footage appeared to be following the accepted practice of loading calves by rolling them rear end first. "Despite perception, this is the best way to prevent calves from stepping back out of the truck and causing themselves harm."
Cruel and illegal practices were not acceptable to the industry, he said.