Dairy genetics co-operative Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) has backtracked in part on earlier decisions not to compensate farmers for hairy heifers.
The co-operative announced yesterday it had decided, as a gesture of goodwill, to credit in full the cost of every insemination from the commercial breeding bull called Matrix even though half his heifer progeny were healthy.
Mutant animals sired by Matrix are hairy, heat-intolerant and don't milk properly.
But chairman Murray King said the corporation was standing by its decision not to pay compensation for 1500 heifers with the "naturally occurring" mutation because it did not know about it when it sold the inseminations.
'We stand by the decision that compensation is not appropriate, but the LIC board believes that a gesture of goodwill is the right thing to do for the farmers who have daughters of the bull, Matrix," he said.
LIC has already estimated the replacement value of the affected animals at $1300 each, which would total $1.95 million in compensation.
Matrix carried out about 12,345 inseminations. At a cost of, say, $30 per insemination, it seems the credit would total about $370,000.
Some Taranaki farmers with heifers sired by Matrix remain dissatisfied, while others are happy with the credit.
Kapuni farmer Tony Furness wants full compensation for insemination and grazing costs for his 11 defective heifers. "I'm sticking to that," he said.
"I suppose what they've offered is a start - they're giving in a little bit. I think they should do more."
Auroa's Rob Poole, who has four heifers with the mutation and another four still being tested, was pleased about the credit.
"This has caused LIC a lot of damage and they've lost a lot of goodwill and farmer loyalty. They've sold something that wasn't fit for purpose and it's logical they put it right.
"For me, it's not about how much compensation they would pay. It was more about them walking away from their responsibilities. So the fact they're now doing something is great."
Pihama's Paul Bourke, who has six heifers, was not impressed by the credit which he said was "just a token" that would go nowhere. It seemed to be more about protecting LIC's dividend and share price than helping farmers.
Geoff Butler, of Kapuni, who has four heifers with the mutation, has called a meeting in Hawera next Wednesday for farmers with Matrix heifers. "I'm bringing everyone together and we'll see where we go from here."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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