Friday, July 20, 2012


The north island has begun calving and the south island will begin in August. Not only is calving the busiest time of year for farmers, but it is also the time when that thorny subject of inductions rolls around.

So what are inductions?

To fully understand it we need to understand how the dairy farming year operates. The dairy farming year is based on grass growth rates. The cows are dried off over the winter as this is the time when grass growth is at its lowest. Cows feed requirements drop dramatically when they are not lactating. Farmers plan to have the cows calve when the grass starts growing again, which in the South Island is about mid-August.

Ideally farmers want the cows to all calve over a short space of time as this means the cows have a longer lactation. You would prefer a cow calved in 10th August rather than 10th September as you will get an extra months milk.

Obviously, the date a cow calves is dependent on the day she conceives. A cow’s gestation period is about 283 days long. So to calve on 10th August she needs to conceive on approximately the 10th November.

A cow starts her oestrus cycle again, about 40 days after she calves, but this can be longer if she is under weight or stressed or has a complication like a retained placenta. So a cow that calves in October won’t be able to get into calf until at least mid-December (if everything goes well).

Cows that calve into October are considered to be late. So farmers look through their mating records and identify the late calving cows and call the vet in, who injects the cows with a hormone injection which causes them to calve early. Obviously the calf is pre term or premature and they do not survive.

The end result is that the cow has calved early and she has time to start cycling again and get in calf in or around that mid-November mark, which means she will calve within the desired period next season.

Inductions are not pleasant and the practise is often highlighted by the media and critics of the dairy industry to beat dairy farmers up with. It’s also used by our trading partners as a reason to inhibit our exports or at least the they threaten to.

I remember 20 years ago standing at the calf shed with my Mum. She was saying that dairy farmers would not be able to induce cows soon, which pleased us both as neither of us like it. But here we are 20 years later and we are still doing it.

So what percentage of cows are induced in New Zealand?

the New Zealand Veterinarian Association has stated that only 3% of the national herd was induced in the season just finished, with 98% of farms being under 15%(Benny 2011).

So the New Zealand Veterinarian Association say 3% of the national herd was induced.

New standards were introduced in the 2010-11 season by the NZ Veterinarians Association (NZVA), Dairy NZ, Dairy Companies Association of NZ (DCANZ) and Federated Farmers. In the 2011-12 season the level of inductions within an individual herd will not exceed 8% reducing to 4% in 2012-13.

The industry has introduced its own guidelines to reduce the number of inductions in any one herd.

Inductions can be a way of covering up poor animal husbandry practises. If a farmer has a poor conception rate which leads to a lot of late calvers, they can cover up the mistake by inducing all the late calvers. You will find that cows that are stressed, under fed and underweight, who also have to walk long distances are less likely to conceive. So the moves by the industry to reduce inductions to 4% on any individual herd should begin to eliminate this.

I'm not comfortable with inductions; I can understand why it is done though. The paper by Pangborn and Co outlines the additional financial costs farmers face by not inducing. It’s interesting reading.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

I saw a reference to the latest abortion figures in NZ, the other day and it turns out that the induction rate of human foetuses is at 19%. So 19% of all human pregnancies are induced (aborted) as compared to 3% in the dairy industry.

Now this is not a post on the morality of abortion, you can all make you minds up on that issue.

People need to be consistent in their attitude though. If you are against inductions in cows then I can understand you being against inductions in humans. Likewise if you frown on the dairy industry for inductions then be consistent and frown on the abortions of humans.

I was listing to Sue Kedgley on Newstalk ZB a year or so ago. She was speaking on behalf of the Greens and laying into the dairy industry about this video. The interesting thing was that at the same time, the Greens were promoting a bill that would allow abortions to be conducted up to 20 weeks gestation. I couldn’t believe the hypocrisy of it.

I can’t think of two more comparable situations. The dairy industry terminates the life of a calf that is inconvenient and unwanted to the farmer. That calf would either be slaughtered at 4 days old or slaughtered later in life as a beef animal. Abortion is the termination of a human life that is considered inconvenient and unwanted, except at some point between foetus and birth it becomes illegal to terminate a baby. It's certainly illegal to terminate a baby after its birth as is confirmed by this case in Australia recently. 
Surly a human life is worth more than a calf? I find in inexcusable for someone to be against inductions but be in favour of abortion.

Anyone who holds this view and publicly criticises a dairy farmer for inducing 3% of their herd, but defends abortion should be called up on their hypocrisy.

Just for the record; at Milking on the moove, we will not be inducing any cows. Our plan for a dairy industry that is attractive to young people does not include inductions. Mrs Herud and I adopted our first son and I encourage the adoption of all unwanted babies in NZ.

No comments:

Post a Comment