Have your say: help ensure NZ’s dairy cattle have a good life
The Code of Welfare for dairy cattle is currently being updated and submissions are open until 30 June 2022.
The Government is calling on New Zealanders to provide feedback on new welfare standards for dairy cattle. This is a chance for you to have your say on how animals in the dairy industry are treated, and we encourage you to make a submission.
What needs to improve for animals in the dairy industry?
SPCA works with Government and industry on a number of issues to improve the welfare of dairy cattle.
Our key concerns include:
- Young calves – For cows to produce milk, they have to give birth to a calf. Many calves are not required for the milking herd. This applies to all bull calves (males) and heifer calves (females) that are not kept as replacements.
Each year, around 2,000,000 of these calves are slaughtered from as young as four days old.
SPCA opposes the early separation of calves from their mothers and the routine killing of calves in the dairy industry. We support alternatives such as raising calves for beef. We advocate that research is undertaken to find ways to raise calves with their mothers on pasture, and that calves must not be transported before 10 days of age.
- Shade and shelter – Many New Zealanders have seen cows without access to shade in summer, or kept in muddy paddocks without access to a dry lying area in winter. SPCA is opposed to intensive wintering grazing that results in poor animal welfare, and advocates that cows must have unrestricted access to shade and shelter.
The proposed minimum standard does not require shade or shelter. Unrestricted access to shade and shelter must be available to protect cattle from the elements such as sun, rain, wind, hail, and snow.
- Access to pasture – The current standards allow dairy cattle to be kept off pasture for their entire lives. While there are very few indoor barn operations in New Zealand now, SPCA is concerned that without a requirement for cows to access pasture, more zero-grazing systems may be built in future. SPCA advocates that all cattle should have access to pasture and grazing in the grass-growing season, and opposes the permanent housing of dairy cows.
What can I do?
Email your feedback to email@example.com by 5pm on 30 June 2022.
We have provided a sample email below with some key points. We encourage you to amend it, add to it and make it your own – a personal letter has more impact.
I am writing to make a submission on the Code of Welfare: Dairy Cattle.
As acknowledged by the Animal Welfare Act 1999, cows are sentient animals capable of feeling emotions such as pain and distress - we must protect their welfare. Dairy cows contribute a significant amount to Aotearoa New Zealand. I believe that it matters how they are treated.
I support the statement in the draft code that the social license of the dairy industry is in question as long as young calves that are ‘surplus to requirements’ are routinely killed. The Government must work with the dairy industry to help farmers find alternatives to this practice. There should be a recommendation that dairy calves are kept with their mothers and weaned naturally, as some small operators are already doing. In addition, standards must be set so that young calves can only be transported from 10 days of age, to align New Zealand with standards in other countries.
I oppose the standard in the draft code that animals must only have access to ‘the means to minimise the risk of heat stress.’ This is not good enough - the standard must explicitly require shade and shelter for all cows, as required by the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
I oppose the standard in the draft code that cows kept in off-paddock facilities must only have access to ‘a suitable outdoor area’ for parts of the year, which does not have to include pasture. The standard must specify access to pasture. Grazing is a normal behaviour for cows, and they must be given the opportunity to do it.
I support the development of proposed regulations to require appropriate lying areas for cows in intensive winter grazing systems; to prohibit the use of electroimmobilisation (a technique using electricity to restrain cattle without sedation or anesthesia); and to prohibit the transport of lactating and end-of-life (sick, injured or old) cows via the Cook Strait.
I look forward to seeing a world-leading set of animal welfare standards for the dairy cows of Aotearoa New Zealand as soon as possible.
Access the draft Code of Welfare
All of the standards for dairy cow welfare are being reviewed, so there may be more topics that you wish to submit on. For more detail, you can access the entire draft code of welfare for dairy cattle here: www.mpi.govt.nz/consultations/changes-to-the-code-of-welfare-for-dairy-cattle/