Wet and muddy conditions are to be expected on farms at this time of year, with slow pasture growth, rain and when feeding winter crops. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is reminding all pastoral livestock farmers to ensure animals are well cared for on crops and pasture, and seek advice if they need to.
"We recognise that this time of year brings many challenges, and managing stocking densities, pasture, break feeding on crops and minimizing soil damage are just some of these. But farmers must be vigilant to not compromise animal health and welfare during these challenging months of the year," says MPI's Director of Animal Health and Welfare, veterinarian Dr Chris Rodwell.
"New Zealand’s codes of animal welfare generally require livestock to have access to areas free of surface water and mud, and appropriate protection from adverse weather. Rest and lying time is important to the health and welfare of livestock, not just feed availability and body condition of animals.
"Welfare issues may not be immediately obvious," adds Rodwell. “Amongst a number of issues, prolonged time on mud can also cause distress and discomfort, bring on significant and painful animal health issues such as lameness and mastitis, and reduce production and resistance to disease."
MPI recognises that the use of winter crops as a source of good nutritional support to pasture and other feeds during winter is an important part of livestock feeding in New Zealand extensive farming systems. However, there is a point where animals are adversely impacted by muddy paddocks and MPI continues to receive complaints.
"We urge farmers to seek expert advice and follow good practice to avoid problems. There is some really good advice available from vets and your sector groups. Spring is stressful for people and animals alike – don't add to your stress with animal health issues caused by mud," Rodwell says.