Home' Clutha Leader : August 16th 2012 Contents 14
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or saw dust?
The six-week study showed that there are no
detrimental effects to calves raised on river
stones.'' --- DairyNZ animal husbandry and
welfare team leader Dr Nita Harding
River stones are a satisfactory option for calf
bedding, according to a recent study by
DairyNZ and AgResearch.
The use of river stones has been on the rise in recent
years, particularly in areas where more traditional
bedding, such as sawdust, is difficult and expensive
DairyNZ animal husbandry and welfare team leader
Dr Nita Harding says questions about the impact of
river stones on calf welfare prompted the study.
"The six-week study showed that there are no
detrimental effects to calves raised on river stones
and that MAF Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of
Welfare minimum standards for housing calves are
The study took place on a commercial dairy farm
outside Mossburn in the South Island in September
and October 2011. The research took rounded river
stones, around 3cm in scope, laid out in four calf
pens at a depth of 20cm.
Twenty calves were monitored on the river stones
and compared to another 20 calves kept on sawdust.
Kept at a stocking density of one per 2m2, the calves
were evaluated at one and six weeks of age.
"We monitored the health and cleanliness of the
calves, assessed their behaviour and recorded the
temperatures of the calves and the environment,"
says Nita. "Both sets of calves grew at the same rate
and both bedding materials were relatively dry and
clean throughout the study period.
"We now have to go back and investigate the effects
of rearing calves on river stones at different stocking
rates, as this is likely to be more relevant to
commercial conditions. Studies this year will also
include more detailed examination of calf behaviour,
as well as monitoring health and growth rates."
The stocking density used was that recommended
for calves reared on river stones.
Nita says while the study provides good information
to farmers, it is important to remember that bedding
is only one part of a successful system.
"No matter what type of bedding is used, it is
important that a plan is in place that takes into
account all aspects of calf care. This includes making
sure staff are adequately trained, calf feeding and
health care is adequate, and that calf rearing facilities
Believe science in agriculture
The New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers Association
(NZGFA) annual conference in Tauranga has been told to
believe science and not conjecture when it comes to
agriculture and so-called pollution.
Retired Federated Farmers Dairy head,
Lachlan McKenzie, told the delegates
that scientific fact did not always
underpin the raft of rules and regulations
that were restricting farming practices in
"A simple example is the trout," McKenzie
said. "Out of the 50 most invasive fish
species in the world the Rainbow Trout is
26th and the Brown Trout 47th. Further, in
streams inhabited by trout just 21% of the
algae growth is eaten. The figure for native
fish is 75%.
"I just can't believe that we put two of the
world's most invasive fish in our waterways
and then place them on a pedestal," he
He was followed by Ian Elliott, a large South
Waikato dairy farmer, who has recently
returned from a Rabobank-sponsored
conference on agriculture in Holland.
He told the crowd to forget organic farming
as it required six times the land area of
conventional farming and we just didn't
have those resources. He added that we
had the iniquitous situation of eight
percent of the world's population who live
in Europe telling the rest of us how we
should grow our food.
"The problem is that we have rules imposed
without people thinking of the end result
those rules will have. It is also important to
realise that the higher production is per
hectare, the lower the environmental
footprint per unit of production."
NZGFA President, Stuart Barwood, said the
speakers highlighted issues the organis-
ation had been concerned about for some
"We have a positive plethora of rules and
regulations, many of them based more on
conjecture than scientific evidence. In
addition there is no credit given to those
many fertiliser spreaders who invest
considerable amounts of time and money
becoming state of the art in their game.
"A modern Spreadmark accredited operator
can spread fertiliser with absolute precision
and not pollute sensitive areas or
waterways. Listening to some officials you
would think we just chucked it off the back
of a truck with a shovel," Barwood said.
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