There has been a bit of publicity again regarding animal welfare on farms. The 2014 Dairy Welfare Code outlines both minimum standards and best practice recommendations and is a cracking good read at only 40 pages! All welfare codes are available online at: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/animal-welfare/codes-of-welfare/
As a profession we are passionate about both animal welfare, and farmer welfare!
We understand the realities of the farming environment and we are available to tailor a Welfare Policy for your farm and talk through the requirements with your staff. Some interesting points of note, in response to the media coverage:
- Bobby calves must be fed, kept in suitable shelter, and handled with due care. As of next year, a ramp must be available for them to walk up to the truck.
- Euthanasia by blunt force trauma is not allowed. Personnel must be trained and competent to use a firearm or captive bolt.
- Hip lifters are to be removed if the cow cannot promptly support her own weight.
- Cows must not be transported where her weight is taken entirely by the hip clamps/vehicle.
- Cows supported in a sling must be able to breathe freely, not suffer unnecessary discomfort, and be lowered if they are not supporting their own weight within one hour.
- If they are still recumbent after 48 hours, a vet examination is recommended - we can check for dislocated hips or other diagnosis, give a prognosis, or feedback on welfare.
- Animals must be fit for Transport. Calves must be at least 4 days old, healthy, able to stand with a dry navel and fed within 2 hours. Adult cattle must be bearing weight evenly on all 4 legs; if they are lame or have any health issue, a vet may issue a certificate only if they meet certain criteria.
- Milk letdown must not be stimulated by insertion of water or air into the vagina.
- It is best practice to have an Animal Health Plan written in consultation with your vet. This provides an opportunity to go over husbandry skills, to plan ahead, and formalize decision trees for mastitis, lameness, calvings and recumbent cows for example.
There are also a set of codes for painful husbandry procedures; I would advocate for following Best Practice guidelines here,
such as always using pain relief for disbudding/dehorning.