US Style Cow Stalls – what aspiration!

Written By: - Date published: 12:10 pm, December 14th, 2009 - 46 comments
Categories: animal welfare, climate change, Environment, john key - Tags: ,

In a year when New Zealand factory farming practices for pigs (and earlier for chickens) have been widely exposed and shocked the country, our dairy industry is looking at adopting similar practices for dairy cows. In a year when climate change has been on the world agenda as never before, our dairy industry is attempting massive expansion despite already contributing more than 20% of this country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Consent applications have been lodged with Environment Canterbury to allow up to 18,000 cows to be housed in cow stalls (the industry is using the much more palatable term – cubicle stables). If successful, 18,000 more cows will be imprisoned in these stalls for 24 hours per day for 8 months of the year, and 12 hours per day for the remaining 4 months.

Prime Minister John Key was questioned about the consent applications at his post-cabinet press conference last Monday and said he had no concerns about the farms damaging the international brand because “anyone driving around New Zealand can see that most farming is done on a pastoral basis”. By Tuesday Key seemed to have worked out that cow stalls aren’t acceptable in the eyes of most voters, and changed his line to: “I think the image implications for New Zealand are not good”.

Minister of Agriculture David Carter has said that he doesn’t see any fundamental animal welfare issues with cow stalls, as long as acceptable standards are adhered to. I guess we already know what Carter considers to be acceptable standards, as he still hasn’t taken any action to stop sow stalls, which he lied about knowing anything about back in May.

Federated Farmers have come out defending cow stalls, desperately trying to spin them as “Environmentally-friendly”. From Radio NZ:

President Don Nicolson says the move is partly due to rising costs and pressure from lobby groups over the environmental impact of farming. He says many other countries use this type of farming.

This is classic Federated Farmers propaganda. Yes, effluent run off into our waterways would be less than on a normal dairy farm as it would be stored in large constructed ponds and discharged on the land in summer. The obvious point missed is that this is intended to help NZ expand our dairy farming industry – it’s not like they’re planning to close other farms – this is to expand the dairy industry and therefore increase both our effluent and our greenhouse gas emissions. Landcare Research ecologist Bill Lee says that intensive dairy farming in the Mackenzie Basin would also lead to the rapid extinction of native plants and animals.

While these new applications are for sixteen much larger scale operations, cow stalls are already in use in New Zealand. Abe Deworde, the operator of an Invercargill farm which has been using cow stalls for 500 dairy cows for the past four seasons, explains the real reasons why the dairy industry want to move to this style of farming:

It has increased our production, our production per hectare and efficiency, because we can milk these cows longer per year.

Increased production per hectare means that the dairy industry could rapidly expand – the amount of land required per cow in intensive factory farms would be miniscule compared with the amount of land required in pastoral farming.

The major animal welfare issues are of course obvious – cows will not be able to show normal patterns of behaviour, a requirement in the Animal Welfare Act which until the Act is fixed can, like with pigs and chickens, be pretty easily stepped around.

Further to that, there are physical health issues for cows – as has been documented in the US where this type of farming is the norm – lameness increases due to standing on a hard floor, and heavy udders, bowed legs, and mastitis (acutely painful infection of the udder) are more likely due to both milking for longer periods, and the hygiene in confined stalls as opposed to pastoral lands. Human health concerns then arise; as it becomes likely animal health will need to be controlled with antibiotics.

The life of a dairy cow in New Zealand is already far from ideal. Cows are made pregnant every year until they are determined to be not producing enough milk. They are then surplus to requirements and shipped off to the slaughterhouse. Every year a dairy cow has her baby stolen from her just 2 days after giving birth and is then forced to give far more milk for humans than she would give her own baby. As with a human mother, the more she is milked, the more milk she produces. Individual cows in New Zealand are already forced to produce up to 50 litres of milk per day.

However much “concern” Key now professes to feel is irrelevant as he claims to have “limited” power to do anything. Does this guy realise he is the Prime Minister? Does he seriously not realise he can put up a government bill to stop this type of farming going ahead? Is that why we’ve seen no action on sow stalls despite mass public outrage? I’ve mentioned before on this blog that all the PM or Minister of Agriculture need to do is put up a government bill to fix the loopholes in the Animal Welfare Act that allow Codes of Welfare to breach the principles of the Act.

Help keep the pressure on Environment Canterbury to reject the consent applications by writing a submission. The momentum is building, and by last Thursday 1100 submissions had already been received. The Green Party has a handy guide to making a submission opposing the new intensive farms. Submissions close at 5pm on Friday.

http://www.3news.co.nz/Business/Story/tabid/421/articleID/133194/cat/52/Default.aspx

46 comments on “US Style Cow Stalls – what aspiration!”

  1. grumpy 1

    Nice post Rocky – this is what you are good at.

    leave the silly stuff for the kids.

  2. fizzleplug 2

    No offence, but I can’t recall the last time anyone from Canterbury listened to anything or anyone.

    • grumpy 2.1

      Get stuffed fizzleplug. I’m from Canterbury and own 3 farms, none of which is diary.

      You could say I’m conservative but on this issue I’m with Rocky. Stockmanship on Canterbury diary farms is appalling. The clowns who work on these places have no concept of animal welfare and battery farming wil be worse.

      The MacKenzie was made for rabbits and merinos and that’s all that should be there!

      • Bored 2.1.1

        Spot on Grumpy, we agree at last!!

        Talking of which I think its a bloody tragedy that we use all this synthetic oil based fibre made things like polyester jerseys, carpets, etc etc when NZ farmers produce f***ing brilliant wool. And we are so stupid we would rather eat minced old diary cow than fabulous low fat rabbits.

        And Fiz, Cantabs dont need to listen to other people harp on about their crap teams or anything else in the world when they have the Crusaders.

        • fizzleplug 2.1.1.1

          My God, you’d almost think that nerve was exposed it took so little prodding to get a reaction.

          React to the issues people, not the trolls. I’m just using these bridges to hide under as I pass through.

          • grumpy 2.1.1.1.1

            Don’t take it personally fiz.

            Rocky didn’t mention it – but she could have….. The practice of “inducing” cows so they all calve at the same time is supposed to be banned but some (with dodgy vets) still do it.

            This really fancy bit of animal welfare means the cows all give birth at the same time – good for factory farming. Some calves are dead, some alive.

            If you want to jump a fence sometime and expose this, I’d even give you a hand Rocky.

  3. grumpy 3

    And also… The average diary cow is culled at about 9 years whereas beef cows keep producing to 14 – 15, even longer.

    But what really pisses me off is these dirty polluting arrogant immigrants who only came here either because nobody else wanted them or the land was cheap – and then bought their filthy “farming” practices with them.

    • Pascal's bookie 3.1

      But what really pisses me off is these dirty polluting arrogant immigrants who only came here either because nobody else wanted them or the land was cheap and then bought their filthy “farming’ practices with them.

      That’s what Hone said!

    • Bored 3.2

      Who where when? Please elucidate, (I am not doubting, just want to hear more).

    • rocky 3.3

      Dairy cows are actually culled generally at around 6-7 years.

      What immigrants are you referring to? Pakeha?

  4. zelda 4

    Cows dont have ‘babies’ they are ‘calves’

    Thing thing youll want ante natal classes for the cows.

    • grumpy 4.1

      Try telling a cow that her calf isn’t a baby. You obviously are either a dairy farmer or live in Ponsonby – either way you know f*** all.

      • lprent 4.1.1

        Hey what do you mean. I live in Ponsonby. I also have indentations on my leg where some broody angus kicked me in the yards one time.

        Careful with your stereotypes.

        • grumpy 4.1.1.1

          Fair enough, good to see appreciation of the cow’s maternal instinct extends all the way to inner city Auckland.

    • grumpy 4.2

      Nah, fuck it tosser! I’ve seen too many of the local dairy farm “workers” (wankers more likely) tearing up the road in their quadbike with a little trailer on the back with a new born calf in it and the distressed cow galloping behind on the shingle road.

      That’s real stockmanship.

    • prism 4.3

      You put us right Zelda!

  5. chris 5

    ok this is just dumb. they work out a more environmentally friendly way and suddenly it’s ok if they shit in the river if they’re happy? They end up as tasty steak on my plate..what does happiness have to do with it?

    • rocky 5.1

      Please, tell me how this is more environmentally friendly?

    • grumpy 5.2

      Putting 18,000 dairy cows in the MacKenzie where currently there are none is never going to be environmentally friendly. Dairy cows never finish up as “tasty steak” on anyone’s plate, and the calf “by-product” is disposed of for the pelts.

      I suppose some of us think that if you are going to take an animal’s
      life for food, then you owe it the least amount of stress and “unhappiness” while it is alive. Just common decency really but something the industrial farmers of cattle, chickens, pigs etc. are obviously devoid of.

      • Bored 5.2.1

        Grumpy, pleased to hear a farmers views on this, as a mad keen fisherman I have over the years had the benefit of seeing most NZ ag practices up close, and have mentioned before how variable they are in terms of ecological friendliness and stock treatment. At the end of the day farming is treated as an industry with a bottom line which varies according to so many factors. It’s pretty easy to blame farmers for bad practices when their farms often reflect current economic models and conditions. What I find reasonably easy to suss out myself is what the best use for land is, and as you say in the McKenzie cows are totally unsuited to conditions.

      • rocky 5.2.2

        Hate to correct you when you seem to be on my side for once 😉

        But you’re wrong about the calf “by-product”. Bull calves are slaughtered for veal or raised as beef cattle. Heifer calves are raised as dairy or beef cattle replacements.

        • grumpy 5.2.2.1

          And nobody talks about the trade in “slink” skins eh?

          • grumpy 5.2.2.1.1

            Maybe I should expand. There are very very few survivors of induced calves, anyway they are an inconvenience. Inducing still carries on with big farms and these factory farms need it to keep production optimised.

          • rocky 5.2.2.1.2

            And nobody talks about the trade in “slink’ skins eh?

            It’s just the same as veal – same calves.

            Also, you’re right that spent dairy cows don’t end up as steak, but they do enter the food chain as hamburgers, sausages, and pet food.

            • grumpy 5.2.2.1.2.1

              Not quite the same. Veal comes from live births and are mainly male (as you said earlier).
              Induced calves are either born dead or close to it and can be male or female.

    • lprent 5.3

      Environmentally friendly? Where did you get that from? Federated Farmers?

    • chris 5.4

      I hate farming and farmers as much as the next guy and think that the Mckenzie basin is a dumb place for farms and should not be allowed. But this is about factory farming which allows controlled disposal of effluent. how is this a bad thing?

      • rocky 5.4.1

        Read my post…

        The obvious point missed is that this is intended to help NZ expand our dairy farming industry it’s not like they’re planning to close other farms this is to expand the dairy industry and therefore increase both our effluent and our greenhouse gas emissions. Landcare Research ecologist Bill Lee says that intensive dairy farming in the Mackenzie Basin would also lead to the rapid extinction of native plants and animals.

        I think I explained pretty well in my post why it is not environmentally friendly. Would you care to actually disagree with something I said?

        • Bored 5.4.1.1

          Bill Lee should be listened to, there are birds on the riverbeds that are rare and with dairy effluent could easily become endangered to the point of extinction.

          Capcha misuses

        • chris 5.4.1.2

          Yes, I understand completely, however you’re scatter gun approach is quite disconcerting. You need to decide what exactly it is you’re protesting against: Farming in the Mckenzie basin, Factory Farming, or increased dairy heards. Choose one and hammer it. Message delivery 101. you seemed smarter than this kind of rant style activism to be honest (although your post the other day has me wondering about your maturity….)

          [lprent: That is why we have a variety of posters. They offer a range of opinions. In this case there is a question about a new innovation in our farming sector, and you’d have to ask why in the hell this innovation is worth while for NZ. ].

          • felix 5.4.1.2.1

            Didn’t you just say “I hate farming and farmers as much as the next guy ” ?

            And now you’re lecturing Rocky on message delivery and maturity. Hmmmm

            • chris 5.4.1.2.1.1

              You’re right, however what i was actually referring to more is the dependence and prioritisation of farming at all levels over other, more innovative forms of business (tech and the like). I actually tried to edit that but couldn’t. But whatever, i’m just a dumb, psuedo-anonymous commentator, much like yourself actually.

      • prism 5.4.2

        Why would anyone say they hate farmers and farming – as much as the next guy? This talking about hating it’s not constructive criticism. Farmers are OK – it is the irresponsible old style ones that are unwilling to change, and the new style entrepreneurs with multi properties, stocked to the max. They are pushing up land prices and down on proper care of their stock, with what’s called industrial agriculture now coming to some lucky cows with prison factory conditions inside with feed or outside with possible feed, mostly a hope that the grass will grow fast enough to keep up with the animals’ need on overstocked pastures.
        Farmers dilemma! ‘Um shall I pop down to the farm today or leave it till next week/month when it is more convenient and the children are back from boarding school.”

      • prism 5.4.3

        Why would anyone say they hate farmers and farming – as much as the next guy? This talking about hating it’s not constructive criticism. Farmers are OK – it is the irresponsible old style ones that are unwilling to change, and the new style entrepreneurs with multi properties, stocked to the max. They are pushing up land prices and down on proper care of their stock, with what’s called industrial agriculture now coming to some lucky cows with prison factory conditions inside with feed or outside with possible feed, mostly a hope that the grass will grow fast enough to keep up with the animals’ need on overstocked pastures.

        Farmers dilemma! Um shall I pop down to the farm today or leave it till next week/month when it is more convenient and the children are back from boarding school.”

  6. Red Rosa 6

    And of course the taxpayer is subsidising this madness.

    All those extra cows are costing us at least $100 each per year under Kyoto, and the government is picking up 90% of the tab.

    Best part of $2m per year.

    Does anyone have better figures? This is a very rough approximation. But the general picture must be right. After all, the ETS deal has had Fed Farmers crowing, ever since the legislation passed.

  7. I never realized how we farmed in Holland but our cows never saw the light of day and Only when I arrived in NZ did I realize how truly inhumane it was. We had (thank god a thing of the past) little calves in individual little boxes without sunlight without gras and running around because it kept the meat pale and delicious (or so we thought). The poor mites were so deficient they ate each others fur trough the holes in the crates.

    John Key says that most cows will still be outside in the future and that people will still perceive NZ as green blah di blah but like everything else that comes from his mouth that is a lie.

    Intensive factory farming is about competition. Just like battery hens. Once one starts the others have to follow to keep being competitive.

    The ones starting can do so because they can parasite on the NZ green image for a while because of the the ones still farming the old more humane way while they rake it in for a bit but slowly but surely the other farmers will have to follow suit.

    It’s just another step in the race to the bottom.

  8. And ooh, Rocky is right.

    This is about getting more cows to feed on less land because they don’t damage the grass (they’re never on it) and expanding your business to make more money and has nothing to do with cleaner controlled disposal of effluent stuff.

    The whole idea that you can harvest methane from the cow shit while yes, you can to a certain degree is only possible when the animals are living in absolutely grueling inhumane conditions and as such just another example of unsustainable factory practices.

    The whole “Factory” “farming” term is an oxymoron. Factory and farming are two terms to describe activities which are incompatible with each other.

    By the way the edit function seems to have ceased.

  9. roger nome 9

    “All those extra cows are costing us at least $100 each per year under Kyoto, and the government is picking up 90% of the tab. ”

    oh – so is this what Key meant when he said that he admires Muldoon – some weird bent for subsidising unsustainable farming practices?

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