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.

“Done well, it provides animals with quality feed to keep them warm over winter. Done badly it means cattle can be knee deep in mud which gives rise to completely justifiable concerns for their welfare. Winter grazing also has an environmental impact and the government is working on ways to address that too.”

The Government had bottom lines on animal welfare and some people were falling well below acceptable practice, Mr O’Connor said.

Yet again, a small number of farmers was “letting the side down and bringing everyone into disrepute”.

It was time for greater co-ordination, faster action and consequences.

MPI’s Animal Welfare unit has stepped up its compliance activity and is closely monitoring the situation.

“Our international reputation depends on getting this sort of thing right, as does our social licence to operate within New Zealand,” Mr O’Connor said.

“I know industry groups have been working to improve wintering practices and protect animal welfare. I want to add extra impetus to that work.”

He is assembling a taskforce of vets, industry leaders and officials to identify the issues and bring him some solutions.  He has asked the group to meet for the first time in the next few weeks and to present back to him with first-steps by the end of the month.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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