Speaking at a Beef + Lamb New Zealand meeting in July, Peter Hyde, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Compliance Team Manager, said the changes bring into effect an infringement system, where farmers can be fined $300-$500 for less serious animal welfare breaches where mild to moderate short-term harm has been caused to the animal.
This system, similar to traffic fines, means farmers do not get a criminal conviction for what MPI’s animal welfare staff deem to be minor offences.
Peter says these regulations will make it easier for MPI to act against animal mistreatment.
Serious offences will still be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act.
Peter says most of the new regulations are based on minimum standards from existing codes of welfare, but the changes that will have the greatest impact on the sheep and beef industry relate to the transportation of lame, injured, sick or heavily pregnant livestock.
Farmers will not be able to shift stock which are unfit for transport to a meat processor without risking being fined, unless certified by a vet.
Peter says that under the new regulations, sheep or cattle must not be transported if they cannot weight-bear on one or more limbs when moving or standing still or they have difficulty walking and hold their head below their backline continuously.
“Farmers need to manage and treat lameness on-farm and not put lame animals on the truck.”
Farmers can be fined for transporting livestock with ingrown horns, injured horns or antlers, eye cancer, injured or diseased udders (mastitis) or with lesions on the udder. They can also be fined if they transport livestock in late pregnancy and the animal gives birth on the truck or within 24 hours of arriving at the meat processors or saleyards.
Transport operators will need to be aware of how they transport animals with horns and antlers so these animals cannot injure themselves or others. Farmers and transporters are liable for fines if horn-related injuries occur during transportation.
Transporters will also need to ensure tall stock have enough room so they do not suffer back rub during transportation.
Peter says farmers that need to transport tall or horned stock should speak to their transporter or stock agent so they can plan the journey appropriately.
Electric prodders cannot be used on animals under 150kg and must only be used on the muscled hind or forequarters. Cattle must be able to move away from any prodder. The inappropriate use of an electric prodder can result in a $500 fine.
Goads or prodders cannot be used on the heads or sensitive areas of any livestock. Failure to comply also attracts a $500 fine.
Peter says no animal over six months of age can be castrated without a local anaesthetic and a local anaesthetic must be used when a high-tension band is used for castration at any age. This does not include a rubber ring. Failure to comply with this regulation could result in a criminal prosecution and a fine of up to $3000 for individuals and $15,000 for a business.
As of October 1 2019, farmers will not be able to de-bud calves or dehorn cattle without a local anaesthetic.
Peter says dogs must have dry and shaded shelter and farmers must comply with the minimum standards in the code of welfare for housing dogs. Unless they are actively working, dogs must be secured when travelling on a public road on the back of a ute or trailer.
MPI has 25 animal welfare officers and over 200 MPI vets based at processing plants around the country to monitor and enforce the new regulations.
Peter says the majority of farmers are doing the right thing in terms of animal welfare but is the outliers that pose a reputational risk for the entire industry.
Find out more
For more information about the new animal welfare regulations go to the MPI website: www.mpi.govt.nz/animalregs