By Hamish Barwick
Federated Farmers has submitted to the draft Code of Welfare for Deer, saying it will be positive for the industry.
“We note that this code has been developed with a more co-operative process, which has produced a positive document. We hope that this process flows on to the other codes,” Federated Farmers senior policy analyst Phil Holland said.
The revised Code has been drafted by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) after consulting with Deer Industry NZ, deer vets, MPI, animal welfare lobby groups and experts in animal welfare.
Proposed changes include minimum standards for milking deer, an initiative that has been developed since the last Code was updated in 2018. Most of the provisions have not been reviewed since 2007.
There is also more guidance on animal health and welfare, animal handling, mating management, managing deer in enclosed spaces, mustering and a requirement for all farmers to have a written up-to-date animal health plan based on veterinary advice.
Federated Farmers supports proposals put forward in the New Zealand Deer Farmers Association submission on a range of issues such as mixing of deer on farm, feed, water, managing deer in off-paddock facilities, mating, fawning, disease and injury control.
Like NZDFA, Federated Farmers is concerned by the requirement to provide ‘sufficient environmental complexity’, to allow deer to escape aggression.
“It is our view that providing sufficient space to avoid aggression is a better way to frame this requirement. This will avoid the use of the hard to define and measure concept of environmental complexity and provide a practical way to allow deer farmed on flat land to avoid aggressive peers,” Feds said in its submission.
“If any deer is subject to persistent bullying, they must be removed from the mob, checked for illness and injury, and when introduced to a new mob, be monitored closely to ensure that further confrontation is minimised. If this is not possible or the animal is subject to further bullying, humane euthanasia should be carried out,” the submission stated.
On water standards, Federated Farmers noted that because mobs of deer react badly to grazing in confined areas winter grazing in of deer is conducted differently to other livestock, with the use of a back fence being extremely uncommon. This means that they are free to move around the paddock, to and from the available water sources.
For winter grazing systems, drinking water should be readily available in the grazing area and portable drinking troughs should be as close to the grazing face as possible.
Federated Farmers considered that the compulsory requirement for there to be an animal health plan for deer that is regularly reviewed and signed off by a veterinarian is a “step too far.”
“While we are not opposed to animal health plans in principle, it is our view that making it compulsory and requiring vet sign off in all cases, adds considerable expense without materially improving the welfare of deer. We consider that the provision should be modified to allow sign of by an animal health advisor and moved to the recommended best practise section.”
Submissions to the code closed on November 10.
Other codes of welfare being updated
The Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare, Sheep and Beef Code of Welfare and Pig Code of Welfare are currently being updated. Federated Farmers submitted on the Dairy Code, and in support of NZPork’s submission for the Pig Code. The Sheep and Beef Code of Welfare is also being updated. Meanwhile, Transport of Animals, which includes movement between farms and transport of stock to meat works, is being reviewed next year.
Submissions on the draft of the Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare closed on 30 June 2022. Federated Farmers made a comprehensive submission which, while acknowledging that welfare standards are evolving, concentrated on making sure that any changes are affordable, practical and make a real difference to livestock welfare.
Feds also submitted on 8 July on the draft of the Code of Welfare for Pigs. The Feds submission supported NZPork’s stance and questioned the NAWAC process used to develop the draft.
Phil Holland said that most worrying in the proposed codes is the move to an ever-increasing level of detail on how to farm. For example, two outcomes for calf rearing have been expanded into nine input-based rules under the Minimum Standard No. 12 – Colostrum, Hand Rearing and Weaning.
“As such we are concerned that the proposed codes will harm the viability of farming, will have severe economic costs, and will probably not improve animal welfare outcomes.”
He added that the process of reviewing the codes gives an opportunity for people and groups who hold quite different views from farmers on what good welfare for animals looks like to have an equal opportunity to have their say in what is in the codes.
“This means that as farmers we must take part in this process to make sure any changes that are made to any of the codes are sensible, practical and affordable.”
He said Federated Farmers are comfortable with the evolving of the codes, but it is the speed of change and the practicality of change that is an issue for members.
“We also emphasised that any changes need to be introduced with sufficient lead in time for farmers to make any necessary changes to their systems.”