Cow inductions land Fonterra boss in hot water
The head of the world's largest dairy co-op has created a storm of controversy after he admitted that hundreds of his cows have been induced on his farms.
Henry van der Heyden milks more than 1,700 cows on his farms at Putaruru on New Zealand's North Island.
He is also the chairman of New Zealand's super-dairy, Fonterra, which has a stated policy of phasing out the practice of inducing cows by 2012.
However, in a recent television interview, Mr van der Heyden, admitted that inducing cows to calve remains standard practice on his farms.
Dairy cows that are due to calve later than the majority of the herd are induced up to 12 weeks before they are due. Most of the calves are stillborn or killed shortly afterwards. However, the practice allows farmers to bring the cow back into milk and ready for synchronised mating with the rest of the herd.
The procedure should require a vet to administer the steroid that causes the calf to be born prematurely. However, official veterinary data shows that only 2pc of the five million dairy cows in New Zealand were induced this year, despite industry targets being 15pc and reports that Mr van der Heyden's own herd had an induction rate of 11pc.
Fonterra, industry organisation DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, the New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Dairy Companies Association recently agreed on an operational plan to phase out inductions, which are thought likely to damage New Zealand's international reputation. Agriculture Minister David Carter recently said it was "a bad look" in overseas markets.
When asked why up to 200 calves were induced on his farms this year, Mr van der Heyden replied that "it's like many other farmers, it's about driving productivity. It's to get cows to produce milk over a longer period of the season."