Pugging and pragmatism – Feds welcome winter grazing proposals but SAFE blasts continuance of “mud farming”

A government announcement on intensive winter grazing regulations  was denounced by the SAFE animal rights group in a statement headed Mud farming continues in the South Island.

Greenpeace struck a similar condemnatory note with a statement headed Backdown on winter grazing rules ‘delaying the inevitable’.  

Greenpeace said winter grazing churns paddocks to deep mud because intensive numbers of stock are confined to small feeding areas for longer than the soil and water can sustain. This mud washes into drains, streams and rivers, posing a risk to human health and the environment.

The Government proposals would change regulations initially designed to give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. These changes include scrapping rules to prevent pugging damage from intensive winter grazing and instead recommending farmers take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to reduce pugging.

Federated Farmers, on the other hand, headed their press statement Pragmatism finally prevails on winter grazing.

The Government’s press statement was much more in harmony with the feds’ statement than the two others.  It was headed Proposed intensive winter grazing regulations updates are more practical for farmers and began: Continue reading

Animals used in research relating to health and welfare have been successfully rehomed

Five piglets that were part of AgResearch’s work to test a form of upgraded facilities, over a period of three-and-a-half weeks indoors at the institute’s Grasslands campus in Palmerston North were  identified as being suitable for rehoming on local farmlets.

“All of the research we do with animals is of the highest ethical standards and aimed at making progress for people and animals themselves. But depending on the nature of the research, rehoming of the animals is not always practical,” says AgResearch veterinarian and animal welfare officer Susan Doohan.

“In this case, it was a very positive thing to see happen for the piglets and for all of the researchers and staff involved. Seeing the piglets play, explore and interact in their new homes has given us all a lot of enjoyment. It is certainly something we want to do more of where the opportunities for rehoming research animals are identified.”

All five piglets were confirmed as suitable for rehoming based on several factors including temperament, health, transition to meal feeding, and sociability with other piglets. They were transferred to their new homes in March 2021 after potential new owners were identified in the local area by AgResearch staff.

Checking was done in advance around the experience of the potential new owners and housing arrangements for the piglets, as well as information sharing about animal use in science.

“We also made sure to provide the new owners with a supply of feed for the initial rehoming period, that was consistent with what the piglets were receiving during the research, to ease their transition,” Susan says.

One of the new piglet owners says:

“The three boys we rehomed settled in very well and now have adopted brothers from another piggery.

“They have all been weaned off their initial milk feeds and are growing like the proverbial mushrooms. They are very quiet, friendly fellows and easy to look after. We would have no hesitation in rehoming animals from AgResearch in future.”

  • More information about AgResearch’s research with animals and ethics processes can be found here.

Source: AgResearch

New tool to measure the welfare of NZ dairy cows

Veterinary researchers at Massey University have created a way to assess the welfare of dairy cows within a day.

New Zealand has no industry-recognised protocol to assess dairy cow wellbeing, but the researchers say protocols tailored to NZ dairy farms are ‘essential’.

Further testing is needed, but the team say this protocol could form the basis of a standardised process for monitoring the health of the country’s dairy farms. Continue reading

Govt launches “bold” primary sector plan to boost the economic recovery

The Government today launched what it is promoting as “a bold plan to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade” while protecting the environment and growing jobs.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern released Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential, describing it as “a 10-year roadmap to unlock greater value for a sector vital to New Zealand’s economic recovery”.

The Fit for a Better World Action Plan is based on three themes:

      • Productivity: adding an additional $44 billion in export earnings over the next decade through a focus on creating value.
      • Sustainability: reducing our biogenic methane emissions to 24-47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050; and 10 per cent below by 2030. Plus restoring New Zealand’s freshwater environments to a healthy state within a generation.
      • Inclusiveness: employing 10 per cent more New Zealanders from all walks of life in the food and fibre sector by 2030, and 10,000 more New Zealanders in the primary sector workforce over the next four years.

Continue reading

15 members of Winter Grazing Action Group are announced

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today announced the members of a new action group tasked with implementing recommendations to improve animal welfare in winter grazing systems.

The establishment of the Winter Grazing Action Group, made up of 15 representatives from industry organisations, government, vets, farmers, and other rural professionals, follows the final report by the Winter Grazing Taskforce.

In its report, the Taskforce, established by Minister O’Connor in August last year, made 11 recommendations to help ensure that animal welfare became a key part of all winter grazing decisions in the pastoral supply chain. Continue reading

Changes recommended for winter grazing practices

A Taskforce has made 11 recommendations to improve animal welfare in intensive winter grazing farm systems.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor established the Winter Grazing Taskforce in response to concerns about the impacts on animal welfare of some intensive winter grazing practices,.

He asked it to do a stocktake of the multiple initiatives that are already under way to promote good winter grazing and identify where we might work more together to improve practices.

The recommendations include: Continue reading

Agriculture Minister announces members of winter grazing taskforce

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced the 10 members of the newly established taskforce to respond to the animal welfare issues associated with the practice of winter grazing. 

The members are:

  • Independent Chair: Dr John Hellstrom, ONZM
  • Dr Arnja Dale, Chief Scientific Adviser, SPCA
  • Dr Helen Beattie, Chief Veterinary Officer, NZ Veterinary Association
  • Dr Stephen Hopkinson, dairy cattle vet & NZ Veterinary Association
  • Angus Robson, environment campaigner
  • Dr Ross Monaghan, Senior Scientist, AgResearch
  • Elaine Cook, Dairy NZ
  • Dave Harrison, Beef+Lamb NZ
  • Ewen Mathieson, dairy farmer, Southland
  • Pania King, sheep & beef farmer, Gisborne

Mr O’Connor said his expectation was that the task force will take stock of the multiple initiatives already under way to promote good winter grazing practices and identify why these are not currently working for all.  Then it must identify actions to enable farmers to do what should be done.

“The taskforce will draw on advice and expertise from various groups and individuals across the country who can inform and challenge the taskforce’s thinking”.

The group will provide an initial report back to the Minister by the end of August and will work on a plan of action by the end of September.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Agriculture Minister establishes winter grazing taskforce

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today announced he is establishing a taskforce to respond to the animal welfare issues associated with the practice of winter grazing.

Images of cows up to their knees in mud, unable to lie down and rest and calving in these conditions were unacceptable to him and he had heard “loud and clear from the public” it was unacceptable to them too, he said.

“Winter crop grazing is necessary in some parts of the country to provide enough feed for stock at a time when there’s not a lot of pasture,” the Minister said. Continue reading

PhD research at Lincoln aims to enhance future livestock production systems

Seven Lincoln University PhD students are looking at using benefits from the natural environment to enhance future livestock production systems.

The team of researchers wants to provide better diets and grazing environments for cattle, sheep and deer in the agricultural sector to help improve the animals’ lives.

Lincoln University Livestock Production Professor Pablo Gregorini, who is supervising the students, says the importance of animal welfare cannot be overstated.

“People who pay for meat, and would pay more, want to know the animals have a life worth living.

“These students are putting in a lot of hard work to help provide farmers with nutritional and grazing management tools to enhance their livestock’s good lives as much as possible,” Prof Gregorini says. Continue reading

Agriculture Minister highlights Budget goodies for the farm sector

Post-Budget ministerial statements being drip-fed from the Beehive today included a statement from Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, who said the Government is backing New Zealand’s vital primary sectors by boosting funding for biosecurity, research, food safety and animal welfare compliance.

Speaking to a group of top-performing farmers at the NZ Farm Environment Trust in Hamilton, Mr O’Connor said the Government was committed to working alongside farmers and recent biosecurity outbreaks had shown the need to strengthen New Zealand’s protections against pests and disease.

The Budget committed an extra $12.3 million to boost our biosecurity systems, he said.

An extra $21 million has been committed to stop the spread of wilding conifers, which is a significant increase in the government’s annual investment.

Continue reading