Details announced today for new regulations for the management and treatment of young calves are part of a wider programme of work by farmers, industry and government to strengthen bobby calf welfare.
The 8 organisations that formed the Bobby Calf Action Group at the end of 2015 have accelerated and added to existing measures aimed at ensuring everyone involved with bobby calves applies best practice in their handling and care.
The Bobby Calf Action Group is made up of DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Meat Industry Association, Federated Farmers, New Zealand Petfood Manufacturers Association, Road Transport Forum, New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
"There has been a significant amount of commitment and work by the Group to advance initiatives that will impact on farms and during the transportation and processing of bobby calves," says MPI’s Deputy Director General, Scott Gallacher.
"Farmers, industry and government have been working for some years on lifting the standard of care for bobby calves and that has been effective."
"Last year's footage of bobby calf mistreatment provided an impetus to accelerate the work programme," says Mr Gallacher.
DairyNZ's Chief Executive Tim Mackle says the issues go beyond the farm gate.
"There are many players in the value chain and it was important that we got together to solve these issues," says Mr Mackle.
"We saw some unacceptable behaviour last year and we are committed to eliminating it from the industry," added Mr Mackle.
Mr Gallacher noted that MPI's investigation into potential animal mistreatment following the release of the bobby calf footage is ongoing. A processing worker pleaded guilty to all 10 charges over alleged bobby calf offences when he appeared in court early June. MPI also laid a further 4 representative charges against a company and an individual last month in relation to alleged animal welfare offences involving bobby calves. The first hearing for those charges has been set down for late June 2016.
Activities delivered by the Bobby Calf Action Group include:
- DairyNZ has led consultation with farmers to develop practical solutions such as updated bobby calf handling guidance resources. This has been supported by online resources and 'fit for transport' education posters distributed to all dairy farmers.
- DairyNZ, the New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Society of Dairy Cattle Veterinarians have worked together to deliver more than 60 training workshops and programmes to dairy farmers throughout New Zealand. The bobby calf workshops cover handling skills, staff training, shelter, feed, engagement with transport operators and loading facilities.
- The Petfood Manufacturers Association has updated its code of practice for managing bobby calves and established a verification regime to ensure requirements are met. They've also put in place a voluntary agreement for its members to install CCTV to monitor the unloading and slaughter of bobby calves at all petfood premises and developed a pre-season training programme for processing staff.
- The Meat Industry Association is working closely with industry partners to ensure consistent messaging for farmer suppliers and transporters to improve animal welfare outcomes. In addition we are working closely with MPI to better understand the causal factors across the value chain that are influencing animal welfare in order to ensure continuous improvement.
- Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand member companies have reviewed their individual terms and conditions of supply for farmers with respect to animal welfare, and collaborated with other organisations to support the flow of information to farmers for autumn calving.
- The Road Transport Forum has reviewed the NZ Livestock Transport Assurance Programme to ensure it remains fit for purpose and has engaged constructively with other members of the Bobby Calf Action Group to improve calf holding and loading facilities where necessary.
- Federated Farmers is communicating with members about new rules so requirements are clear.
In addition to supporting the development of the new regulations for young calves, MPI has:
- worked with other Bobby Calf Action Group members to develop a process map of the bobby calf system to help guide welfare enhancement programmes
- invested $250,000 on a comprehensive, scientific assessment of bobby calf welfare to help provide evidence-based decisions about bobby calf management
- will visit 1200 farms in 2016 as part of its on-farm verification programme to familiarise farmers with their legal responsibilities around animal welfare
- initiated an advertising programme to encourage people who are aware of bobby calf welfare issues to report it to MPI's hotline – 0800 00 83 33.