Blunt force law change met with enthusiasm

New animal welfare laws for dairy cattle brought in last Friday will mean farmers will no longer be able to kill calves using blunt force to the head.

Earlier this month, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy confirmed the use of blunt force to euthanise calves would now be ruled out, except for in the case of an emergency.

In February this year, Mr Guy had approached the National Animal Welfare Committee (Nawac) for advice on euthanising calves by manual blunt force on farms.

More than 350 submissions were received on the issue, with a large number supporting the proposed change.

The code of welfare for dairy cattle has now been updated and put in place in time for the 2014 calving season.

''The code states explicitly that calves must not be killed by the use of blunt force trauma caused by a blow to the head, except in unforeseen emergencies,'' Mr Guy said.

The move was backed by both Federated Farmers and DairyNZ with both organisations looking forward to working with veterinarians and farmers across the country to teach safe practices and the right techniques.

Federated Farmers Co-Animal Welfare spokesperson Willy Leferink said euthanising any animal required great skill to achieve rapid death and this was a skill not everyone was up for due to obvious reasons and they were grateful the code revision agreed.

''No matter what method is used, we believe death must be swift and confirmed before the animal is left.''

Industry bodies DairyNZ and the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand agreed that blunt force should only be reserved for unforeseen emergencies where better alternatives were not immediately available.

DairyNZ strategy and investment leader for sustainability, Dr Rick Pridmore said the change in code gave clarity to farmers throughout New Zealand and they were now working with the Ministry for Primary Industries to ensure that training and support was available for farmers in alternative methods such as the use of a captive bolt.

''We have 21 training workshops planned for June and July that will cover humane slaughter on-farm, and we are also going to partner with veterinarians to deliver more workshops in the future.''