January 25, 2009

Cattle farm husbandry - why keep cattle?

Cattle, farming, husbandry, cattle, decisions, why keep cattle?

By Dr Clive Dalton

It’s hard to imagine a farm without cattle, as they complete the rather romantic picture of the ideal property with a house cow providing dairy produce, and beef animals providing stock for sale and mouth-watering home-reared beef for the freezer.

And what better spring activity is there than rearing a few calves? Well, before getting too carried away, take a cold hard look at the points
below before you decide to become a cattle owner:

Points for
  • Cattle will eat rough stalky mature pasture that sheep leave, so they are ideal for pasture control and don’t use diesel.
  • They are not affected by the internal parasites of sheep, goats, deer and horses so can act as “vacuum cleaners” for infective larvae.
  • Home-grown beef in the freezer makes you feel good, just to know it’s there and even if you never get round to eating your way through it all.
  • Rearing cattle is an enterprise that can grow, and is easy to get into and out of.
  • If reared kindly from birth, cattle can become very satisfying and easy stock to handle.
  • Electric fences will hold them much easier than sheep.
Points against:
  • You need more capital to buy cattle than sheep.
  • They eat a lot more feed than sheep.
  • They graze differently to sheep and the result will be a more open sward with maybe more clover and weeds.
  • You’ll need to protect your young trees from their long necks and tongues.
  • Being large, they can pug paddocks in winter.
  • You’ll need some sturdy yards to handle them as they can cause injuries to life and limb.
  • They’ll need regular veterinary treatment to prevent diseases.
  • Humans can also contract some cattle diseases.
  • You have a legal responsibility to identify and test them for Tuberculosis.
As there are more points against than for; so decide now whether you want to read on!

Your legal responsibilities
If you keep cattle, you are bound by the Animal Welfare Act 1999. The details of good practice under this law are set out in a number of animal welfare codes that you should be aware of. They cover bobby calves, dairy cows, animals transported within New Zealand, emergency slaughter of farm livestock, and animals at saleyards (see Appendix 2).

The Five Freedoms
Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 you are legally responsible to provide animals under your care with “the Five Freedoms” which are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  4. Freedom from fear and distress
  5. Freedom to express “normal” behaviour
The first four freedoms are all very straightforward and it’s only the fifth one where people start to worry about definitions of what is “normal”, especially when you think of what happened with domestication and the way animals are farmed today.
  • So in dealing with your stock – remember they are legally entitled to the 5 Freedoms and failing to provide these can result in legal proceedings, large fines and imprisonment.
  • We really have to take this seriously because as an exporting country our competitors are watching us all the time via satellite TV – hoping an issue will arise that they can exploit. It’s a tough world out there!
  • So to our “clean and green” image, of which all Kiwis are so proud, we must add the word “humane” and show the world that this is not just public relations hype.
This material is provided in good faith for information purposes only, and the author does not accept any liability to any person for actions taken as a result of the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) provided in these pages.

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