Compliance doesn't always have to be costly

Tougher health and safety regulation, food hygiene regulation, environmental compliance, employment standards, and now the new bobby calf regulations, which Diana Koorts wrote about last week.  Some would say farmers have certainly been unfairly targeted with over regulation in recent times.  Here’s the other side of that fence.

Take the new bobby calf rule changes, for example.  Yes, there are sticking points.  Some farmers have questioned the practicality of the rules about holding pen heights, calf access ramps, and concern about a one size fits all design.

These sticking points are being ironed out, however.  Useful guidance and factsheets are available from MPI, and also Federated Farmers. See for example the Federated Farmers Fact Sheet on Bobby Calf Regulations published in March 2017. 

One key message from that guidance is that, while there are specific requirements about heights and access ramps, it is up to farmers to decide what the facilities will ultimately look like.  Farmers can customise the facility to meet their needs and fit in with the farm.

DairyNZ has also provided guidance about what can be used.

Other farmers complain about the cost, weighing up the cost of compliance against the return gained from their Bobby Calves.  But farmers should focus on the overall value of their product, which is milk.  Compliance doesn’t always have to be costly, and the guidance about Bobby Calf regulations reflects that.  If there is an existing facility that can be used or modified to comply, then that is fine. 

With the negative publicity drawn from a small minority found to be mistreating bobby calves, and the public (otherwise known as latte drinking townies) not getting to see how most farmers would treat their animals, it is easy to take a cynical view about these regulations.  While farmers will be reluctant to change something that has worked for them for years, there is always benefit to be gained from change. 

Often new efficiencies can be found in change, and farmers should see this as an opportunity to question accepted practices and make improvements.

This is not change for change sake, or only as a knee jerk reaction to a small minority mistreating animals.  In the long run these changes will benefit farmers, animals, and the industry which is (like it or not) very much built on reputation and public perception. 

As with any product, public perception is everything, however uneducated.  Producers that continue in the face of a negative perception do so at their peril.  

The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document. 

If you would like more information on any of the topics in this document, please contact your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser. 

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Philip McCarthy