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11 May, 1999
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is receiving a disproportionate number of complaints about the welfare of livestock on lifestyle blocks.
MAF Enforcement Unit spokesman Ross Burnell said it is common for hobby farmers to own several types of livestock, and they sometimes do not fully appreciate the requirements of all the species in their care.
"Young growing animals and old animals require more feed than those in the prime of life," Mr Burnell said. "When conditions are cold, livestock require much more feed to maintain their body condition."
He said some species such as horses (especially thoroughbreds) and goats seem to feel the cold more than others, and as well as having an increased requirement for feed in bad weather, these animals require shelter. Animals which are lactating or pregnant also have a greatly increased requirement for feed.
Mr Burnell said animals with faulty incisor teeth cannot bite effectively,so will suffer on short pasture.
"For animals in these categories, pasture alone may simply not be sufficient, especially if it is lacking in quality or quantity. Supplementary feed mustthen be provided to maintain the animal in reasonable body condition.
"Species like horses and sheep can generally graze close to theground, but goats and cattle require longer pasture. Most ponies seem to fare reasonablywell on shortish pasture, and on small farms, over-fatness is usually more of a problemthan poor body condition.
Mr Burnell said farmers also had to treat stock appropriately for worms.
"When livestock are in poor condition yet there appears to be sufficient feed, intestinal parasitism is often to blame. Control of internal worms on small farms it almost always involves drenching with anthelmintics."
He said that in the summer and autumn of their first year of life, grazing animals generally require relatively frequent drenching, at about five to seven week intervals. As they age, most species acquire some natural immunity, goats being an exception. Goats on most hobby farms will require relatively frequent drenching throughout their lives.
"Use of long-acting anthelmintic capsules is another option for worm control. These can provide effective control of internal worms for three months or more,but care and attention is required to make sure they are used appropriately and administered correctly."
Mr Burnell said that with, so many variables involved, there is no easy answer. "Assuming pasture is their only source of feed and their care in every other way is good, it is generally true that ponies and sheep compete better on short pasture than goats, cows and larger horses.
"Most livestock owners mean to care for their animals well,"says Mr Burnell, "but good intentions are not enough for good farming. Inexperienced livestock owners must not risk their animals' welfare, but must seek advice from an expert if they are unsure of good farming practice."
Media inquiries to:
Ross Burnell, Senior Adviser (Animal Welfare), MAF Enforcement Unit, Auckland Airport.
Phone 09 256 6423. Fax 09 256 6424.