Questions & Answers
Why did IHC decide to suspend the IHC organised transportation of calves and IHC calf sale days this year?
We looked very carefully at all the information on hand about Mycoplasma bovis disease and assessed the potential risk of IHC’s Calf and Rural Scheme in the spread of the disease at this crucial time. We could not be part of something that puts the livelihoods of farmers at risk. Although the IHC Calf & Rural Scheme practices have been tightened up and improved, the risks remained too high, as traditionally we collect and sell a large number of individual calves from a wide variety of different herds.
What happens to the calves now?
Not many of the pledged calves would have been born as yet, and that’s why we couldn’t leave our decision any longer, because farmers will need to make a decision on what to do with the calf when they are born in the early spring, along with other calves at that time. Some farmers have told us they still wish to wean an IHC calf, find their own buyer and organise transport and payment to IHC, or work directly with a sale yard, but there will be no IHC specific sale days or IHC collection and transportation of calves.
Did the Ministry for Primary Industries recommend/advise you to suspend the Calf and Rural Scheme?
MPI provided all of the necessary information about the M. bovis eradication programme, and after carefully considering this information and consulting with farmers, and experts in the rural community, including our good and old friends at PGG Wrightson – Livestock, we thought it was too much of a risk to pick up calves or organise IHC calf sales this year. This was a huge decision, because the Calf and Rural Scheme support has been so generous for so long (more than 33 years now and $1.45 million last year), but we had to do what was right for New Zealand farmers, their livelihoods and long-term sustainability.
How big is the IHC Calf & Rural Scheme?
Last year more than 3,568 farmers gave, with 2,863 physical calves pledged and sold, 456 virtual calf donations, 189 average price donations, and 196 individual donations, with 16 cull cows. This is New Zealand’s largest and longest standing Calf Scheme.
Why did you go ahead with the Calf and Rural Scheme last year despite being aware of the threat of Mycoplasma bovis?
This was very early days and we aren’t farmers and simply were not aware of the huge implications. We certainly did everything by the book and tightened up all our systems. At that time we didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision about the threat of Mycoplasma bovis. It’s only been in the last few weeks that appropriate data has come out for us to do so.
Will you resume the physical Calf and Rural scheme next year?
It’s too early to say at this stage. We are in ongoing talks with MPI, PGG Wrightson and also with our supporting farmers, we are keeping up-to-date with the latest information.
Wasn’t Sir Colin Meads a long-term supporter of the IHC Calf & Rural Scheme?
Colin Meads supported the work of IHC and was Patron for the IHC Calf & Rural Scheme for more than 30 years and right up to the day of his passing last year. There is a huge amount of history in the IHC Calf & Rural Scheme and IHC certainly hopes it will continue for many years more. IHC phoned Verna Meads before this was announced just to let her know. Verna was obviously sad, but very supportive of the decision at this time and recalled stories of the way Colin would go out each year to many farmers, particularly the larger farmers to ask them to generously support the IHC Calf & Rural Scheme.
How will you make up for the lost funding?
There will likely be a drop in our funding this year, but we’re asking people to consider supporting the IHC Calf and Rural Scheme by donating a virtual pledge of $300 and that can be split into 12 easy monthly automatic payments of $25, rather than a physical calf, which would be a huge support. Anyone can now participate and we are also hoping other parts of the rural community get in behind this effort and make this into a true rural scheme – go to www.ihc.org.nz/pledge
How will this affect people with intellectual disabilities?
IHC is still committed to supporting rural communities, and we will continue to show that commitment. For the past 33 years, dairy farmers from around the country have really got in behind our efforts to ensure people with intellectual disabilities are supported to live in their own communities. It’s too early to say at this stage how much funding will be affected by this change. That’s why it is vitally important people really get behind the virtual pledge to support people with intellectual disabilities and their families in rural communities www.ihc.org.nz/pledge
MPI hasn’t come out and said calf schemes should be stopped. Are you jumping the gun?
This is a crucial time in the season and if we’d waited longer we would have been at the stage of picking up and transporting calves. Based on the information we’ve seen to date, we know we have made the right decision to halt calf sales this year. We hope farmers will understand and support that decision – many told us at Field days that they were very concerned.
Can you donate smaller amounts for a virtual calf – $300 is a lot for a cash donation.
Yes, you can split the virtual pledge into 12 easy automatic payments of $25 a month.
Does this affect your relationships with your sponsors (PGG Wrightson / Volkswagen)?
No, our sponsors support our decision to help in the nationwide programme to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis. IHC is very grateful for our sponsors support, and thank in particular PGG Wrightson – Livestock for their long and generous support. We value their expertise and guidance and their financial support also helps us reduce costs associated with the Calf & Rural Scheme promotion.
What information did you base your decision on?
There is a huge amount of information now available from MPI, Dairy New Zealand, Federated Farmers and PGG Wrightson. Here is a summary of some of the information we received, based on which IHC made its decision:
Precautions for Calf Rearing
“It is important that every precaution possible is taken to prevent M.bovis from spreading / Stock movements are the highest risk for spreading M. bovis / Purchase from as few sources as possible. / Deal directly with the source farm or via an agent / Ask about cow and calf health on the farm for the past two seasons / Avoid buying from saleyards because of the cattle mixing that occurs there / Ask your transporter to avoid mixing calves with other cattle in holding yards or on the truck / Find a buyer now for your future weaned calves, if possible, and tell buyers about your efforts to reduce risk of M. bovis exposure”
Minimising the risks from Mycoplasma bovis at cattle shows and events
“Where possible, don’t use the same stalls for cattle belonging to different exhibitors / do not allow animals to drink from shared troughs / It is best practice to ensure separation of animals of the same species where possible / reduce stress and nose-to-nose contact.
Where practical, limit cattle movements onto your farm. Mycoplasma bovis can be present in apparently healthy animals and there is currently no commercially-available pre-movement test that can be applied to detect infection. / When sourcing animals, seek to understand the health history of the source herd, particularly with respect to mastitis and lameness in cows, and pneumonia and lameness in calves. / Talk with your transporter to make sure your animals are transported in a clean truck / avoid nose-to-nose contact with other stock / secure boundry fences that prevent nose-to-nose contact.
NAIT email on holding or temporary transit paddocks
“All holding paddocks or transit stops must be recorded in NAIT and allocated a NAIT number / If on an existing farm with a NAIT number this farm is responsible for the animals / NAIT movements must be recorded to and from that location.
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