NZFarmer : January 19th 2010
14 Straight Furrow • January 19, 2010 LivestockFeature KIWI ingenuity has reduced the carbon footprint of British sheep farming by shifting lamb production from carbon-intensive indoor farming to pastoral reared systems. It's a move which will keep envi- ronmentally aware British con- sumers happy because it is in step with the roll out of Britain's new industry standard PAS2050, which measures the greenhouse emissions of all British-grown and imported products. Four years ago Hawke's Bay company Rissington Breedline set up breeding programmes with UK farmers, which involve crossing the hardy, efficient Highlander sheep with the Primera meat breed to encourage the produc- tion of lambs on hill country which was in the process of being retired. The model is going well and involves 85 farmers across a diversity of farms from Scotland to Ireland. Rissington's aim is to encourage more farmers to produce lambs on natural, sustainable pasture systems instead of in sheds or indoors. In the long term the company wants to replicate this model in other parts of Europe and has similar established ventures in Brazil and Uruguay. Rissington already supplies half the year's seasonal fresh lamb to the Marks & Spencer chain from New Zealand. As the programme gains momentum British farmers will aspire to increase supply of natu- rally produced lamb and make it available over 12 months of the year. While this may appear to under- mine New Zealand's export poten- tial to Britain, the sheer volume of lamb required during peak season (especially over December and January) is such that British lamb could not sustainably meet this demand, said Graham Leech, Rissington's chief executive. "Generally where we are going is to enable British farmers to farm without subsidy by becom- ing more efficient and that is why we have our relationship with the top end retailer Marks & Spencer both in and out of New Zealand." Mr Leech said more consumers were demanding products that had been reared within sustain- able systems. Consumers who demand such products can afford them. As an example, an Oakham chicken, which is a high profile brand at Tesco and Marks & Spencer, is popular with discern- ing consumers because it is farmed sustainably. It is this point which differentiates it so well from other chicken. Research from AgResearch Invermay (near Mosgiel) shows that even allowing for the cost of shipping, new Zealand can export pastoral reared lamb products to Britain and elsewhere which have a smaller carbon footprint than British lamb which has been farmed indoors. ROTORUA farmer Mark Spitz has been convicted in the Rotorua District Court on multiple counts of ill-treatment to farm animals in his care. Mr Spitz was sentenced to 250 hours community service and ordered to pay $9340 in reparations. Mr Spitz, a former Rotorua farmer and experienced farm consultant, was visited by a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) animal welfare investi- gator in July 2007 after a complaint was received about dead and starving cat- tle on properties Mr Spitz farmed in the Rotorua area. The initial visit by the animal welfare investigator found animals in poor con- dition with insufficient feed available, and two recently dead beef cattle. Many animals had a Body Condition Score (BCS) of three or less, on a scale of one to 10. Mr Spitz was given written notice to improve animal welfare conditions on his properties. The notice included requests to get a veterinarian to assess stock, to act on that advice, and to make sure the nutritional needs of the animals were being met. Between July and September 2007 MAF animal welfare investigators visit- ed Mr Spitz's properties and issued fur- ther formal notices under the Animal Welfare Act, to resolve the animal wel- fare concerns. Over this time period it was found that he had done very little, if anything, to alleviate the growing concern over his stock. There was ongoing concern about pasture coverage of grazing paddocks, and a lack of supplementary feed. An independent farm consultant's assess- ment concluded that feeding levels over the properties could be termed controlled starvation. Most animals were in very poor body condition as there was very little feed available and some animals had died while others subsequently had to be euthanased by MAF investigators. In September 2007, after many issues remained unresolved and with the advice of an independent veterinarian and farm consultant, MAF obtained a Temporary Enforcement Order that directed Mr Spitz to comply with the instructions given by MAF investiga- tors. A follow-up visit showed Mr Spitz to be substantially in breach of that order, leaving MAF investigators with no choice but to obtain a further court order to de-stock Mr Spitz's properties. MAF Enforcement acting director Jacqui Pate said that Mr Spitz not only repeatedly ignored court orders and requests from inspectors but also made the situation more difficult for inspectors by continually moving stock between properties. "If he had taken the advice and sup- port offered by MAF staff and veteri- narians, and accepted that his animals were in a bad state, he may not be in this position now. "New Zealand has an international reputation for excellence in animal wel- fare, partly due to an approach to deter others by holding offenders like Mr Spitz to account. This conduct impacts on the reputations of all good farmers in New Zealand who take the welfare of their animals seriously." Ex-consultant ill-treated animals Sustainable farming demands tackled Sustainable farming gives Rissington Breedline's breeding programme an edge over others. Above and left: Cattle in poor condition on Mark Spitz's Rotorua farm in 2007.
January 27th 2010