Young farmers get wise ahead of calving

Last updated 06:33 03/07/2014

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Junior dairy staff learnt how to calve a cow in trouble, and look after her after calving at a Stocksense DairyNZ workshop.

Nine have been held around the country and a further 10 are being held over the next fortnight. There were 60 people at the workshop in Wairarapa, and 50 in Hawke's Bay.

Stocksense workshops are to make sure dairy farmers are well prepared for the season, which starts with early-calving farms in about two weeks.

The idea is to make a busy time a bit easier for everyone on farm.

DairyNZ consulting officer, Palmerston North-based Abby Scott, said it was a few weeks from calving for many people "and it is good they are being proactive to know and learn about calving".

About 80 people went to the Stocksense workshop, which included two workshops for experienced farmers - humane slaughter and udder health, including dealing with mastitis.

People less experienced had workshops in calving the cow and the calved cow and her calf, Hull said.

"It is a good time to have a workshop, because cows are dried off [no milking] and people can evaluate last season and look ahead to this season coming. It's great that people are thinking about it."

Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre teacher Joe Craddock told about 20 people it was most important to learn what position a calf was in in the cow's uterus before taking any action.

"And then use no moving vehicles to pull out the calf. We know it would only rip the calf in half, or tow the cow behind you. Don't do it."

He said he swore by a small calving rope to get a stuck calf out.

"Check and double check the position of the calf. The key thing is identify the calf position every time. One calf, I could feel the legs, but it had its head back. Until that head was brought forward, you could have pulled all day and it wouldn't have come out."

Craddock said a backside-first breach was the hardest to deliver.

People at the workshop had a feel inside a barrel to see what position they thought the calf was in.

Andrea Henry from Palmerston North's DairyNZ talked about the humane slaughter of calves. She said the law had changed and it was no longer OK to use blunt force trauma on calves, unless it was an emergency.

She said the approved methods for dispatching an unwanted or sick calf were a rifle (which needed a licence) a captive bolt, or chemical methods (veterinarian only).

"We need to meet the public's needs. Animal welfare is important, otherwise they won't buy our products," she said to dairy farmers.

Dairy farmer Duncan Fraser said: "I think most farmers are doing the best they can. The animals are their production. So they look after them."

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He said calves killed on site were often sickly, as heifers and bull calves were worth money if they were healthy at sales or meatworks.

- Manawatu Standard

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