No compensation offer for dud animals

HAIRY AND HOT: Many farmers want compensation for mutant calves.
HAIRY AND HOT: Many farmers want compensation for mutant calves.

Dairy genetics company Livestock Improvement Corporation has extended a small olive branch to farmers annoyed about defective calves from the commercial dairy bull Matrix.

But the partial peace offering does not include any move to compensate farmers with affected animals.

LIC's Nelson-based chairman, Murray King, told the farmer co-operative company's annual meeting in Hamilton: "We fully appreciate the inconvenience, individual impact and depth of feeling that this issue has created, and acknowledge that it has damaged our relationship and reputation with some farmers.

"All we can do now is to focus on assisting farmers to manage their individual situation and rebuild our relationships."

Mr King told the meeting several people had commented that LIC had handled the issue poorly at the start and was not quick or proactive enough.

"Maybe we could have noted a potential concern earlier, but there were risks with that."

The risks included people potentially destroying animals that were OK before LIC knew what was wrong. "I believe we had to let our scientists have the time it took to discover the exact cause of the defect, to allow us to subsequently help farmers manage the situation."

The first indication of a problem was reported to LIC in spring 2011, and the co-operative started communicating with farmers in March 2012. Effects of the genetic mutation include some heifers being excessively hairy, heat-intolerant and not milking properly.

LIC has previously offered free DNA screening to identify affected heifers, and reimbursement for all Matrix semen, valued at about $20 to $25 per insemination. But it has not met the request of some disaffected farmers to pay replacement value for the affected heifers. This is valued at about $1300 each, if the animals were sold for beef first at about $300 a head.