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New Dairy Cattle Welfare Code

19 February 2010

NEW ZEALAND - The Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare, issued today by the Minister of Agriculture, encourages all farmers to adopt the highest standards of husbandry, care and handling. It sets out general principles of care and will be enhanced by industry good practice guidelines.

Developed by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), the code applies to all dairy cattle, including replacement stock and calves sent for slaughter. It covers all aspects of dairy cattle management including calving, milking, housing, food, water, and shelter.

This is the second pastoral species code of welfare. It addresses the issues of shade and shelter which, like all grazing stock, cattle need access to in hot and very cold weather and need a dry, well ventilated place to lie down each day.

The code also addresses the issue of appropriate body condition for dairy cattle. All dairy cattle need sufficient food and nutrients to be fit and healthy. The code also establishes the threshold lower body condition score of a dairy cow where urgent action has to be taken to improve its condition.

Although impressed with the code, John Bluett, vice-chair of Federated Farmers Dairy Industry Group said that the code is really two documents, that in reality should have been split.

"First we have the core code itself – the minimum standard while there are also recommended ‘best practices'.

"By rolling the two together, lay-people could easily confuse what they see as not meeting a legal minimum, when in fact, it’s actually best practice guidance. Furthermore, lay-people may not understand farmers taking a hybrid approach that exceeds the minimum but doesn’t meet best practice guidance in the Code," said Mr Bluett.

The code was drafted by a dairy industry writing group and representatives from dairy farmer, animal welfare, university and veterinary groups were consulted. NAWAC considered the views of these groups, and members of the public, before recommending to the Minister of Agriculture that the code be issued.

“In a world of growing concern about animal welfare the industry and dairy farmers have shown themselves to be a model for the positive management of change. The industry should be in a good position to feel confident that dairy farmers can step up to the mark and comply with this code," said NAWAC Chairman John Hellstrom.

The Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare 2010 is available online at http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/regs/animal-welfare/stds/codes or by request from animalwelfare@maf.govt.nz.

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