Posted by: rivettingkatetaylor | August 2, 2010

Inducing…. where’s the story?

Dairy farmers have apparently been inducing cows for years in order to bring them into milking with the rest of the herd.

I am not condoning it, in fact, I think it’s disgusting and I’m pleased they are phasing it out. But then, I think Husband slitting the throats of our muttons or our butcher shooting our pigs as disgusting too. But part of life. Just like slinkies, docking/tailing, ear marks, bearings….

We (not me, but society) let thousands of NZ children die every year through abortions. Where are the videos of fetuses (spelling?!) lying in hospital bins? 

As I have just read on feedback on TVNZ’s website, this is yet another poorly researched news item. The person said “The reason for inducing is not normally about bringing cows into milk early, cows actually produce less milk when induced. The farmers dilemma is the choice of either aborting (inducing) the calf (in a strictly controlled regime under veterinary supervision) or culling that calf’s mother later on in the year because without the abortion the cow would likely be not pregnant and therefore worthless as a dairy cow. The practice is controlled and being phased out over the next three years, and is performed very reluctantly but with the best of intentions. So where is the story? Surely the story is with human abortions which can be performed as a lifestyle choice now this is disgusting.”

Pippa on breakfast certainly had a much more unbiased question line when interviewing a vet man this morning. I was shocked with Catherine Wedd’s emotive tone last night. While we might have been yelling at the TV too much and missed it, it appeared she did not reiterate to the viewers that this practice had been going on for years and was being phased out – a move that most dairy farmers are actually happy about.

she gave the impression farmers don’t give a shite about their animals but only cared about getting them on the production line to further enhance the large dollar signs flashing in their eyes.

The TVNZ website said:

SPCA national chief Robyn Kippenberger said the practice of inducing would come as a shock to many New Zealanders.

“It’s an awful look,” she said on TVNZ’s News at 8, saying the practice could have worldwide implications.

“The problem we have is that people aren’t coming to terms with the fact that this is now global, it’s now on YouTube, people in Europe can see it, and that’s the market for our milk.”

Kippenberger acknowledged not all farmers induced calves, but that the ones that did “must demonstrate that they have good practices”.

Well hello – who the hell is giving all this footage to all those customers overseas? Our own media. The practice is being phased out. Perhaps the better idea would have been to wait and make sure the industry did it said as it was going to do and then catch them up if they’re still doing it next season.  TVNZ released the “exclusive” story last night as if no-one in the world knew this practice existed.  It released the story as if farmers were kicking their cows in the guts to bring on premature labour.  The reporter, or her news director, is now firmly in the same box as TV3’s John Campbell, for me, after the “corngate” interview (their nickname, not mine) with Helen Clark a few years ago.

It also pees me off that I was going to be waxing lyrical this morning about Takapau’s wonderful visit by Te Radar last week.  I much prefer to be positive than negative. Thanks TVNZ. Not.

Maybe tomorrow.







  1. […] is no longer and it’s being phased out.  Though like rivettingKate Taylor I do wonder what’s the story ? and note a double […]

  2. rivetting kate – you say that you find the practice disgusting and that it’s been going on for years.
    Dairy farmers have been using this ‘disgusting’ management practice for years, but you are angry with members of the media and the public for making a song and dance about it?
    They should say, oh well, they’re stopping it now, so well not say how we feel?
    You know it’s not stopped, but being phased out, so it will continue even though it’s ‘disgusting’.
    Are you sure you’ve thought htis through?

    • It is the manner of the reporting not the fact that it is being reported. Lead story two days in a row with the reporter with her Judy Bailey-eyes saying how horrible it is that this is going on. Not mentioning that Dairy NZ, vets and farmers had been working to reduce the practice with a view to phasing it out completely. The fact she said 200,000 calves but didn’t mention this was only 5% of the national herd. The video they showed was not new, but listed on You Tube a year ago and had only sparked six comments, the last made at least several months ago. The thing that should have happened there was for the farmer to get a slap for not humanely disposing of those poor calves. Another aside is that the dead calves could have been aborted because of something like cambylobacter.
      The national outcry talked about by TVNZ – only half a dozen google search results for both inducing calves and inducing cows (taking TVNZ as one) – the presenter last night said their story had sparked calls for the practice to be banned. It was already on the way there! A code of practice put in place in March 2006 to force farmers to better justify the use of the steroid most commonly used – Dexamethasone ester – is due to expire. It is planned to have the practice phased out (limited to emergency use) by 2013.
      This story did highlight to townies a practice that has been common place in NZ dairy farming in the past and it now being recognised for the welfare issue that it is and being phased out. It does not belong as lead story of the TVNZ news bulletin two days in a row. What about the police man murdered in his home, what about the baby who was murdered by its mother’s partner, what about the high risk, maximum-secrity prisoner being found with a knife in his cell…. not to mention the 18,000 New Zealand babies who get aborted every year.

  3. Mr Guyton, it was the code of practice that was due to expire, not the right to use the steroid. Some other sentences you commented on were ambiguous and I have made slight edits to my thoughts. Indeed, this is my blog and they are my thoughts.

  4. I appreciate the expression of your thoughts Kate and respect your right to express them/change them.
    I’m puzzled though, by your assertion that ‘2 days on the news’ is excessive for this issue. The other events you described certainly had a lot of coverage. The aborting of calves has had very little. Do you think we should go all ‘hush’ on this issue, so as not to spook the market?
    Sunlight. they reckon, is a great antiseptic.

  5. Again, it’s not the two days in the news. It’s two days as lead story. It is a practice that should stop. The industry is aware of that and is phasing it out.
    There was no need for it to be lead news item on Sunday. The video they used to highlight their “exclusive” was put on You Tube 11 months ago. If it was last week, I could understand. Was the reporter trolling You Tube for sensational videos or did the person who hates the practice happen to get the news director on a slow day?
    She was filmed in both Christchurch and the North Island so they must have had a long lead in time for the story. Sunday programme – yes. Close Up- yes. Investigative journalism – yes. sensationalist crap with over emotive comments and the Green party calling for a Minister of Animal Welfare – no.
    A warning for “these pictures are graphic” when the dead body on the ground after a brawl in Auckland did not deserve the same courtesy?

    My beef is not about the issue. It is about the coverage.

  6. And how much coverage does the wondrous TVNZ give to the 18,000 abortions performed in NZ every year (and about a third of them are not the woman’s first abortion).
    Again, I’m not condoning aborting calves just for timing purposes – but where’s the balance?

  7. “My beef is not about the issue”
    Veally good punning there Kate.

    There’s no ‘need’ for it to be lead item?
    Why not?
    Who decides that?
    Would the Chris Carter story have been of greater interest to the general public, do you think?
    The revelation of a long-standing practice that many find, once they are exposed to it, abhorrent is a valid one. I think you sound defensive and I wonder why.
    Are you a dairy farmer?
    Have you practiced this ‘method’?

  8. Good points Kate & you did well on the Farming SHow today too.

  9. No Mr Guyton I am not a dairy farmer. Never have been and probably never will be. I have said in this forum, and I will say again (coudl you please listen this time) that I do not like the practice of inducing calves and I am pleased it is being phased out.
    The only thing worse than this story was the Chris Carter saga. His taking leave for whatever reason was certainly a news item. But given I lean much further right than he does, I don’t care if he is in Parliament with Mr Goff or not.

  10. What do you think Kate, that the practice says about dairy farmers in New Zealand?
    That’s the question.

    • Don’t lump all dairy farmers in this.
      Less than five percent of the national herd (4.% million cows) is induced. It is being phased out. The ones that should be receiving the attention are the ones bucking the trend (and they are few) who are still inducing 10-15% of their herds. And that pressure is already coming from within the industry.

  11. What do you think then, of those who used the method for all those years on all those cows?

    • The same way I feel about doctors who perform unnecessary abortions on women. It is legal. That doesn’t make it right.
      The same way I feel about the farmers who used practices in our history that were legal at the time and proved wrong after the fact.
      There are many practices farmers used to use that are no longer considered right.
      There are many practices many professions used that are no longer considered right.
      Getting rid of the induction of cows is just one step in that continuing evolution.
      Yet we continue to kill unborn babies when there are thousands of couples out there who are unable to have children of their own and can’t adopt because there aren’t any “spare” babies.

  12. Pig crates next.
    Then battery farmed hens.
    Hydroponic dairy farming.
    Ungulates in the McKenzie Country.

    • Agreed.
      I have two free range pigs (well they will be when the rings get put in their noses – you’re not against that are you?)
      I have six free range hens (well, in the afternoons once they’ve laid their eggs – that’s long enough isn’t it? They eat the cat food and poop on the deck otherwise.)
      I have three cows, but they milk themselves via calves (which are not induced, except mentally by the kids who want calves sooner rather than later.)
      And I think there should be a landscape protection order on the Mackenzie Basin – like Hawke’s Bay’s Sugar Loaf and Te Mata Peak skylines.
      But they are all arguments for another day. I’m pleased we have found common ground Mr Guyton – now I need to get some paid work done. 🙂

  13. Me too! I’ll be back after work though Kate 🙂

  14. […] I’m intrigued by the number of times someone has done a WordPress search for TVNZ journalist Catherine Wedd in the past wee while though.  Certainly, within a day of her “breaking” a story on the inducing of calves – a practice I don’t condone, but it is already being phased out of NZ farming after being common practice for some for many years (my blog about that here)  […]

  15. […] odious practice of inducing cows (contrasting views here and here) is used by some farmers to get their late-calving cows into production sooner. We try hard to get […]

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