Industrial dairy could hurt the summer BBQ

OK, so barbecued lamb chops are not really my major concern with large scale dairy conversions, but it seems they (dairy conversions) are partly to blame for the ratio of sheep to people falling from 22 sheep for every person in 1982 to 8 to 1 today:

Economic Service executive director Rob Davison says the latest sharp drop – 4.3 million, or 11 per cent, in the past year – was caused 60 per cent by drought and 40 per cent by conversion of farms to dairying.

He does not expect a full recovery soon because sheep farmers are struggling with drought effects on top of low prices for wool and lamb.

And chops will be harder to find because, in the coming season, the kill will be down six million to 20.3 million lambs.

It’s funny how short term economic decisions, like the mad rush to industrial dairy, have long term economic, environmental and social consequences like climate change, water pollution and, it seems, diet.

Urban cow

Photo credit: pyed p1per

37 Comments Posted

  1. I don’t think 8 to 1 is a bad number actually. Now people care more about their weight and health than their taste. We’re now influenced by the Eastern culture with vegetables, fruits and fish sauce. And even their bbq is really different, not too much smoke or oil or fat, more vegetables. I love that, we should have more milk but less meat.

  2. Possibly because the dairy farmers have moved from the North Island down to Southland and don’t realise how bad the weather can get? I know just what you are talking about, I live in Canterbury myself and can think of a few similar examples here. Mainly pine trees and gorse being pulled out however. Most farmers know the value of shelter, but as I said there are exceptions, especially when someone is new to an area and unfamiliar with the reason why there were so many shelterbelts planted in the first place.

  3. Mr Dennis – the exceptions have moved to Southland then! Flaxes are being torn out left, right and centre. Shelter from the wind means less energy lost to shivering, which means less pasture needed for stock which means less fertilizer needed to force grass growth which means less eutrification of the waterways and table which means less criticism from the townies as they peer at the crappy water in their tumblers. It isn’t, as they say, rocket science. Why then, are the shelter belts tumbling???

  4. jh:
    You are right that shelter is good under pivots. Flax is ideal, because the irrigation nozzles don’t get stuck in it and it does well with the irrigation. Pasture production and stock performance is generally better with shelter, provided you don’t lose too much land area to the shelterbelts. Most farmers know this instinctively, but there are always exceptions.

  5. This guys latest book should interest Greens:
    8:40 Feature interview: Brian Turner

    The poet and activist philosophises with Chris Laidlaw about fishing, fighting for the planet, and putting on a front – and he reads some poetry.
    Produced by Christine Cessford

    He say’s Central Otago has been “raped and plundered” Hates Queenstown
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday

  6. This is o/t but interesting
    1. A frog is cold blooded, when you heat water it’s activity will increase and you will have trouble keeping it in the water.
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/national/sat/2008/08/09/dr_phil_bishop_why_care_about_frogs

    2.
    The medieval marvel: 14th century Hungarian stove cuts my monthly gas bill to just £5

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1041812/The-medieval-marvel-14th-century-Hungarian-stove-cuts-monthly-gas-just-5.html
    hat tip Energy Bulletin

  7. I think we ought to take thought for our brother and sister animals: the pivot irrigation systems require all shade to be removed and since cows are worth so much money how much money would removable shade cost?

  8. Nup, no need to get so hyped up.
    I would suggest that by decreasing or eliminating the subsidies – on extra care for those with severe genetic diseases that stop them from participating in paid work – one further increases the downsides of breeding when one know that doing so my potentially land them with a life time of costs and further incentivises both abortion and adoption.
    Additionally if you apply it to drug babies it may encourage mothers to be more careful about the chemicals they take in from their surroundings.
    The market does the rest quite easily. Unfortunatly the dole and such distorts the natural inclination for inteligence to spread throughout the population. Ever watched “Idiocracy”? As a movie its not very funny, but the core story rings so true in todays society.

  9. Sapient said: ‘hitler-style’ eugenics is mearly one particular subset of eugenics, the word has mearly become a ‘dirty word’ because of its association with hitler, the feild itself is perfectly valid and by no means does it need to entail the meathods used by hitler.

    So, let me get this right Sapient. You don’t think it is okay to actively kill those you think are lesser mortals than you, but it is okay to starve them or forcibly sterilise them to stop them from procreating. Is that what you are saying?

  10. which non-rating party are you a candidate for..?..denny..?

    ..enjoy your five minutes of whatever..

    ..eh..?

    ..and then back to compassionately cutting bits off..letting those lambs freeze to death..

    ..if you don’t sell them to flesh-addicts..

    …eh..?

    ..to make your money..eh..?

    ..now i know you don’t see yourself this way..

    ..but coming from my ex-flesh-addict perspective..

    ..you are a merchant of pain/death..

    ..and an environmental vandal..

    ..in fact you would be doing less harm if you were pushing heroin..

    ..people choose to take heroin..eh..?

    ..you just brutalise/exploit those animals/living creatures….

    ..with nary a care/thought..

    ..eh..?

    ..you dennis..are a remarkably un-evolved human being..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  11. No toad, not QED; Logical fallacy on your part.
    Just because something belongs to a particular genre does not mean it also belongs to the same sub-genre as another member of that genre.
    ‘hitler-style’ eugenics is mearly one particular subset of eugenics, the word has mearly become a ‘dirty word’ because of its association with hitler, the feild itself is perfectly valid and by no means does it need to entail the meathods used by hitler.
    I thought you said you did philosophy? Do you not remmber that affirming the consequent is not valid deductive logic?

  12. “..And you take a remarkably cavalier attitude to the murdering of carrots or whatever it is you eat…”

    oh har bloody har..!

    q.e.d..dennis..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  13. Lol, Toad, that post was to get alittle discussion going, though it didint really acheive that.
    And please not, toad, that I stated i was not advocating hitler style eugenics; their are plenty of other forms which dont involve going out and killing people. Eg encouraging those with high ability to breed and tose with low ability to not. I remmeber hearing that france and norway(?) use this to some extent.
    I was mearly suggesting that we remove the distortion of our breeding pool by ceasing to artificially support tose whom would otherwise be unable to survive to procreate.

  14. phil u – farmer ‘mistreatment’ of animals is often balanced by thoughtfulness and compassion, paradoxically. They find themselves in an awkward position, shear and expose the sheep to the cold, or leave the fleece on and create a shrek. It needs a big rethink all round. Our imported grasses need a browser. Are you going to deny them that?

  15. It is more compassionate to mules than to allow the sheep to develop flystrike and die slowly, but it is a nasty practice that can be eliminated by breeding sheep with less wrinkly skin. Most breeds don’t need it, and those that do (merinos) need to be bred better.

    Tailing isn’t that bad but sheep do do better when their tails are left on, in general, for a number of different reasons.

    And you take a remarkably cavalier attitude to the murdering of carrots or whatever it is you eat.

  16. mr dennis..your take on ‘compassionate mulesing/tail cutting off..?

    ..do you give them painkillers..?

    ..or a kneck-rub..?

    and can i say..what a remarkably cavalier attitude you have to the suffering/mis-treatment/killing of ‘feeling’ sentient beings..

    ..that you make your money from..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  17. Sapient, I am NOT standing for kiwi, but for the Family party – big difference!
    http://www.familyparty.org.nz

    It is not for us to dictate whether a couple can have children or not, that is their choice. Having said that if a couple chose not to have children for genetic reasons, good on them! They can adopt and help a child in need.

  18. Brilliant Mr Dennis – the direction your Dad (and you?) has taken is encouraging to hear about. I still have real concerns about the interim stage where farmers persist with innapropriate stock (haven’t switched to worm resistant stock etc.) in the face of changed circumstances. It is the animals that ‘carry the pain’ for that time, not the farmer. Stockhusbands should not be causing animals distress, but sadly, they often do. (Shhh….don’t mention the muesling, or the knee-high mud in the breaks or the dissapearence of windshelter as the dairy industry squeezes the last centimetre of grass out of their farms). I also worked on dairy farms and like the animals a lot. Tail docking! Hmmm….

  19. Dennis, I very much agree with that sentement and I think tat progress is admirable. But in my role as devils advocate one wonders if that same philosophy may apply to severe geneticly transfered diseases? With you being a candidate for the kiwi party I am fairly sure I know where you stand on that matter; but it is interesting none-the-less.
    I am not suggesting hitler style eugenics by any means; though considering the readily availible and cheap tests for many severe genetic diseases one must wonder on the ethics of breeding when one knows that they could cause so much damage to their children. I personally find it ethicly questionable to breed when one has the genes for huntingtons or parkinsons.
    As if it isint ovious; im trying to start a ethics debate by vurtue of my neuro-psychology book being so boring, lol.

  20. Greenfly, I wasn’t taking a dig at you with that comment, but at philu. You certainly seem to know more about what you are talking about than he.

    From my experience, what appears to be a ‘compassionate’ practice in terms of the individual lambs being helped, is not actually as compassionate in the long run as actually breeding them to be hardier and needing less assistance in the first place. With good breeding, our family farm has very few lambs needing assistance, and far fewer dead ones left at the gate for the slink skin man than the neighbours do.

    My father is now breeding for worm resistance and has increasing numbers of lambs that are tough enough to not even need drenching. Eventually we might be able to go organic and get a premium price, without compromising animal welfare, all through good breeding.

    Feeding weak lambs is firefighting, although educational for kids. It is better if they never end up in that situation in the first place.

  21. Mr Dennis – I have spent plenty of time on sheep farms up and down the country, especially at tailing time, as well as in the shearing sheds, rousing and mustering some very steep country, so have a good idea of what’s what. My concern here is that where there was once a ‘compassionate’ practice (keeping vulnerable lambs alive, devoting hours to feeding young lambs etc.) that practice has gone, leaving the animals that are reliant on the farmer’s compassion, getting none, because of financial factors. This is my point.

  22. Philu:
    Natural lifespan would probably be around 5 years on average (guess) before something ate them or they died of flystrike. Sheep need a lot of care. Under farming they life 8 years or more before they are culled (maturity at 2 doesn’t mean they are killed at 2), and can live to 15.

    Very good compassionate hands. Go work on a sheep farm for a summer and learn a bit about it.

  23. Sheep numbers are down because foreigners think lamb is greasy and stringy and they’d rather have central heating and polyester suits than wear wool.

    That might change when oil gets seriously expensive.

  24. what would their natural life-span be there..mr dennis..?

    ..were they not in your ‘good/compassionate hands’..?

    ..and i could state the bleeding obvious..

    ..that you do not yet appear to realise..

    ..that you are a large part of our (environmental) problems..

    eh..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  25. Lambs grow into ewes, mature at 2 years. After 3 years you can have good progress. Farmers are on the whole very responsible and care for their stock well. They need healthy stock and know how to keep them that way. Don’t worry about the cute wee lambies, they’re in good hands!

  26. now theres the potential for an interesting disscusion on the ethics of animal welfare versus species viability. lol.

  27. Thanks Mr Dennis, but isn’t it the ewes that are the problem, not the lambs? How long would this practice need to go on before the ewes that are failing to care for their lambs, leave the equation? I’m concerned also, with farmer responsibility over this issue.

  28. Completely agree Sapient.

    Greenfly, I’d say you are right. But if you follow that harsh policy for a few years you breed tougher lambs and can ultimately end up with less deaths than initially.

  29. Re: Ireland; We should do as they did for R&D taxes, though we could probaly afford to go even further. It would provide a massive boost to the economy even at a small to nothing tax rate and would help greatly in keeping engeneers here and increasing wages. If we couple it with a cable to singapore (could tap into the one the aussies are proposing) then we could start to move away from the low value goods to high value goods and services.
    I hear the Newzealand Institiute has some good papers re this, though ive never gotten around to reading them 😛

  30. With regard the welfare of lambs, I’m told that.. mismothered or abandoned lambs were traditionally (up until very recently) gathered up and brought into shelter then fed by farmer and family with …powdered milk (mixed with water of course)! No longer. The milk is too expensive (thanks Fonterra!) to be used for lambs and so they are left to die. Is anyone aware of the veracity or otherwise of this practice? Kinda sad and harsh.

  31. Um-m-m, it seems to my eyes that the pictured animal is a cattle (beef) beast, not a dairy cow.

    As some of you may recall I have had, and in a small way still have links to the working side of dairying.

    Can hardly blame farmers for wanting to produce a marketable product.

    However, I do firmly believe that the clean water accord or any similar sustainable water plan must be invoked with urgency.

  32. I would question how socialist a low tax country like Ireland is, but certainly the EU is in love with subsidies….

  33. The biggest thing that reduced sheep numbers in NZ was when subsidies were removed in the 80s. Suddenly it was no longer profitable for poor hill country to be farmed with sheep, so it was planted in trees – which coincidentally is also the best use environmentally, as it reduces erosion.

    Removal of subsidies had a positive environmental effect.

    I tried to argue this when I was in Ireland over the past couple of years. There they (the green lobby and the EU) would like to increase forest area. But everything they do in agriculture is through subsidies. When they think sheep are a good idea they pay the sheep farmers more. When they want people to leave land ungrazed they pay for it. If they want more forests their immediate plan is to pay subsidies to people wishing to plant forests.

    They used to pay people to cut hedges down. Now they pay people to replant them. Crazy.

    Along with all these subsidies come very strict environmental regulations. The farmers are basically being paid to farm in an environmentally friendly manner. But heaps of the regulations are questionable or unenforceable. Farmers end up doing heaps of paperwork for little or no environmental benefit.

    I tried to argue that if they reduced subsidies, and reduced regulation at the same time (saving farmers compliance costs to compensate for the subsidy loss), they would have a net positive environmental effect with much less bureaucracy. Poor land would go into trees for example.

    It was hard to get people to see this though. Socialist solutions for everything are so deeply entrenched in their mindset now.

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