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The collapse of prices in the leather market is due to reprise a big animal welfare problem for the wider dairy industry, one that should have been addressed a long time ago in Guy Trafford's view

The collapse of prices in the leather market is due to reprise a big animal welfare problem for the wider dairy industry, one that should have been addressed a long time ago in Guy Trafford's view

The news that “Hundreds of thousands of dead animals risk being left uncollected on farms because of a collapse in the price of leather”, due to the collapse of the pelt value of animals but in particular bobby calves, should come as no surprise.

The same issue will also spread to slinky lambs and downer cows.

All these animals have limited value from meat and the same situation that has afflicted wool is also affecting the leather industry.

Reduction in consumer demand due to the COVID-19 slowdown to economies, plus the slowdown in processing in many countries, has impacted upon returns. And then there is also the animal welfare issues that some consumers are reacting to. All have impacted to make ‘skin harvesting’ a loss making enterprise.

The problem with bobby calves are two fold; the first are the on-farm deaths that are picked up for disposal and apparently dairy farmers are reacting poorly about the possibility of now receiving a bill for this service.

The second regards the smaller and surplus female bobby calves which go onto the bobby calf truck which have also had a reduction in value and now worth next to nothing.

This raises the specter of the clock being turned back several decades when prior to the bobby calf pick-up service surplus calves were ‘put down’ on farm and presumably buried in pits etc. The bobby service was set up and from my understanding for little or no payment to the farmer for providing a service which removed farmers from the unpleasant practice. As the market developed the service then become to show a profit which the farmers have benefited from.

In reality all the bobby calf service has done is to sanitise an unpleasant practice by removing it from the farmers hands and by putting an economic value on the animals somehow making the practice more palatable.

If farmers still had to take responsibility for the humane disposal of their animals there may have been more progress to finding more acceptable means to give these animals some dignity.

The dairy goat industry also has the same issue with most surplus animals being euthanised and the sheep milking industry could potentially face similar problems although most current sheep dairy farmers are committed to seeing their lambs reared. To date the dairy industries have managed to avoid the consumer spotlight going on them although there are plenty of them aware of the practice who have chosen to either give up on animals milk harvested from these industries or seek small distributors who rear all their milking animals progeny. However, more and more consumers are becoming aware and there are plenty of animal rights groups who are more than happy to inform them.

In my view, the time is well overdue for dairy farmers as an industry to look at adopting new practices which enable this bobby calf practice to cease.

It has been discussed long enough and plenty of consultants et al have put together programs which show it can be made profitable for beef finishers to rear and finish appropriate animals.

One of the barriers there is to greater pick-up by the finishing sector are the lack of the appropriate genetics to make these animals more attractive to the meat industry. Back in a previous life I was involved in several conversations which attempted to link in dairy farmers to finishers and get the right genetics used on dairy farms. It sounded simple in theory, the finisher or breeder who wanted the dairy cow progeny supplied the bulls or semen and the dairy farmer in turn supplied the progeny at an agreed price. However, in reality it just never seemed to work and generally, although not always, it was from the dairy farmers perspective that there wasn’t enough in it for the dairy farmer, and when there was, it was too expensive for the finisher. The issue of what happened to the calf if the deal didn’t go ahead was seemingly irrelevant in the conversation.

The potential resource that is wasted, many would think, is a pretty damming indictment on the dairy industry.

At some point in the not too distant future unless there is a change in outlook from many in the industry it will contribute to lesser returns as milk will only remain as a commodity as the consumer will not be prepared to pay the extra that a ‘good story’ may extract. As the bulk of milk is exported and there is less feedback farmers may feel somewhat immune from the direct impacts.

But perhaps more importantly, domestically the ‘social license to farm’ will have another barrier to meet.

As the issue of the bobby calf outcome becomes more widely known and considered, less and less acceptable pressure will be turned up on the dairy industry and change will be forced upon them, and in the meantime, goodwill lost. At the moment, it is not too late for a proactive stance for a new or different approach to be taken.

For some dairy farmers there will be little issue. With large Friesian-type cows the progeny are already or with little extra genetic change are quite attractive to the beef industry.

Those dairy farmers with Jersey cows face the largest hurdle as the progeny are particularly undesirable due to the lower growth rates and yellow fat of animals with a predominance of Jersey blood, despite many believing the actual taste of the meat being superior to other breeds. Perhaps some clever marketing needs to be employed to create a niche for these animals, such as the Wagyu.

Otherwise it may be that larger animals, not always suitable to the environment, come in as replacements. These discussions should have been taking place years ago as it is not as though the issue has suddenly crept up on the industry.

Unfortunately, returns have always trumped good sense and now practices that shouldn’t be condoned have become deeply embedded.

Saleyard Prime Steer

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30 Comments

Lots of heifers going on boats at present. I talked to local calf rearer and he told me that his supplier had ten thousand less orders for bobby calves, compared to last year. Local farm shop told me there is no demand for milk powder.

That will be a whole new crisis if it continues

Bobby calves (even wf ) got down to $ 8 at the Paeroa sale 2 weeks ago. Thats zero or negative $ after you take out the $ 6 nait ag cost , and yard fees. Although most would have been taken from a batch brought in, so would average higher. This week it recovered to $ 30 for the tail enders, and they were not bad looking calves. Talk was the advanced contract price for weaned Fresian bull calves was down $100 to $ 150 .
the local farm supply spends all day moving pallets of mik , shavings and feed around.
If you pay $ 150 for a top freisan 4day old bull calf , pay $ 100 for a bag of milk powder , $ 40 for 2 bags of hard feed , and are under pressure to get it to 100 kg by December , for $ 400 -450, theres not much fat , and easy for things to go to custard.

Solardb - Still not sold last years Calves now 200Kg and sold some 400Kg Bulls at saleyards for $1.50Kg liveweight other lines sold at $1 a Kg so not worth keeping stock that need feed beyond grass and will not do Calves this year due to costs risks and political demonisation of Farmers. If 3 Gorges Dam goes and weather & disease continue to be a problem a world food shortage is looming. Less stock equals less work/risk and eventually higher prices.Politicians and Greenies will learn that their attacks mean decision are made but not announced and after the effects of implementation are felt the anguish explodes.My Lawyer explained that anger turns to hate and moves to violence by hunger, probably not a big issue in NZ but elsewhere its already evident.

last season ws an interesting one, in a normal year there would have been more money in animals. R1 bulls are selling well around here at the moment, going to be a huge shortage of stock.

Thats weird with the bulls , the schedules high at $ 5.20 k.g at the moment , so whoever brought them will do well. 200kg calves hitting $ 600 - $ 620 at Frankton. Still not making money at that , with the extra feed costs through the drought .

We should be using a lot more beef bulls in dairy industry, I was hoping sex selection would be the driver, apparently not.
https://us.altagenetics.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2020/03/2020-02-3...

A lot of dairy herds are kiwi cross Andrew, so not big framed cattle, and not a popular cross for beef breeders. Farmers I know all use beef for the tail of the herd once they have finished AI.

People are waking up and questioning the logic behind the assumption that they should be consuming the milk/growth formula of another species, as grown human adults that have long been weaned from their own mothers breast. We are disgusted at the idea of resuming consumption of human breast milk, yet have been brainwashed to think that the milk of other animals is fine. That it is beneficial, and has no negative health consequences for us as humans. We've grown up with it, and hardly given it a thought. That logic breaks down very quickly with some research, which is only going to become more widely known in the coming years.

It should be mandatory teaching at schools. I was blissfully unaware of all this stuff until my partner (a vet) opened my eyes to the whole business a few years ago.

It's all about transparency.

Commercial fishing has the same issue ~ dumping of fish, by catch etc and a generally unaware public.

Incidentally the reason we dont have cameras on the fishing fleet is Winston Peters vetoing the proposal.

You need to go a little further, why did Winnie veto it?

Agreed. People deserve to know, yet there is very little transparency for these industries. The reality is in massive conflict with the narrative they spin to the public. I hate that I never thought to question it for so long and therefore supported it. Another real eye opener that is free to watch, if you have not seen it already: https://www.dominionmovement.com or you can search Dominion documentary on YouTube.

https://youtu.be/5PXSbYrFsps This tv programme from the UK produced a few years ago highlighted the fishing activities that are having a devastating effect on our seas.

Yes, just yes.

Just one of the reasons why I put soy milk on my muesli.

You are not alone in choosing a GMO food product as opposed to a non GMO food product. Soybean, also called soya bean, is the number one genetically modified crop in the world, https://www.nongmoproject.org/high-risk/soy/

Though there are some people for whom food allergies may mean that they have no choice but to choose GMO foods.

Do you also take issue with the majority of this being grown for use as livestock feed?

with Soy you have to be careful how much stock even chickens eat, i think it is because of high levels phytoestrogen, the plant version of estrogen,

It is the despicable cruelty I’m trying to avoid.

Absolutely. You would think that should be enough of a reason.

For anyone who thinks there is anything 'humane' about how we treat other animals - thinking and feeling sentient beings, that we think we have a right to exploit: https://www.watchdominion.com

A worrying trend emerging in products outside meat and milk - all of these "by products" that used to contribute to the animal value/farm income are falling away - wools even worse as in reality shearers should probably being paid around 50% more than they are now - the catchup to pay/retain them, class/sort wool and the re vitalise the manufacturers plus make a profit on farm is rather scary. The long term price trend does not bode well on that front.
Interesting times ahead but you can't have 1 product carry everything else.

The main reason that dairy farmers will not use beef bulls is that they are unwilling to expose their cows to birthing difficulties. Low birth weight Herefords have an advantage. A friend of mine is using gender specific semen to AI selected cows and Wagyu for the rest, with a contract to a rearer for all the Wagyu progeny. The dairy industry has come through a period of exponential growth wherein anything that could be milked has been reared. As numbers stabilise and genetics improve there should be a reduction in genetic wastage.

Try to justify this to the average milk consumer.
Near me is a 3000 head dairy farm. They are what is called a flying herd. That is, they do not breed their own replacements but rely on buying young carryover cows on the market.
This means they kill all 3000 calves at birth.

Are the big corporate farmers are the ones unwilling to change and dragging the industry down?

Do they kill all calves at birth or bobby some, and sell some to beef buyers? How do they dispose of the 3000 calves you allege they kill?

Predomently a jersey type herd so, apart form a few hundred bull calves (which are raised for future mating requirments) they are all killed at birth and desposed of on farm.

Jerseys calves can still go to the works for veal , or petfood factory for petfood. Only ones that have died on the farm are a disposal problem , as the only value in them was the skin, which is now worth nothing.

The problem with bobby calves are two fold; the first are the on-farm deaths that are picked up for disposal and apparently dairy farmers are reacting poorly about the possibility of now receiving a bill for this service. This is incorrect a dead calf is called a 'slink', a bobby calf is at least four days old (can be older) that is not needed as a replacement. Dairy farmers have not had the possibility of receiving a bill for bobby calf pickup. Your anti dairy bias is showing here Guy. It is slinks (calves that are stillborn, have died shortly after birth) that are not being picked up, not bobby calves.
Bobby calves have many end uses https://nzfarmlife.co.nz/dairy-101-little-bobbys-many-end-uses/

Killing calves on farm if done properly is a blessing for the calves. Taking a hungry and cold trip to the works is not to their benefit.

That you have to have a cow go through a pregnancy, give birth to a calf she naturally feels maternal about from minute one, only to have them killed in order to get her milk from her x however many hundreds of cows you have, is becoming more and more abhorrent to more and more people. Eventually it will become something that we look back on and say, "how on earth did we do that?"

Days to the General Election: 19
See Party Policies here. Party Lists here.