Intensive winter grazing on crop or pasture is common in the South Island, but is used elsewhere and is becoming more common in the Taupo/Central Plateau area of the North Island. Livestock – including sheep, beef cattle, dairy cattle and deer – are held on a restricted area of pasture or crop (a break or strip) at a high stocking density. When one section of forage is eaten, animals are given access to a new break. On 7 August 2019, Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor announced he was establishing a taskforce to respond to the animal welfare issues associated with the practice of winter grazing. The taskforce completed a stocktake of the multiple initiatives underway to promote good winter grazing practice and identified why these are not currently working for all. This report contains 11 recommendations to help ensure that animal welfare becomes part of all winter grazing decisions along the pastoral supply chain.
- Work is needed to understand and mitigate the long-term animal welfare consequences of intensive winter grazing practices.
- Work is needed to establish baseline animal welfare performance of intensive winter grazing systems in order to monitor the progress of improvements.
- Work is needed urgently to better utilise and expand on our knowledge of barriers to adopting improved animal welfare practices.
- A detailed whole-of-supply-chain process map needs to be finalised, and gaps in information transfer identified and rectified so everyone understands the role that they have to play in improving animal welfare.
- Primary sector organisations, with support from rural professionals and government, support farmers to immediately stop or start the actions identified above.
- Animal welfare considerations must be part of farm planning alongside environmental management.
- The Ministry for Primary Industries should take steps to implement these intensive winter grazing steps immediately, in order to drive change for next winter.
- Participants in the supply chain should identify practical options to adapt support tools, such as contract templates, to incorporate animal welfare obligations and expectations.
- The identified opportunities listed in the Taskforce stocktake document for research and extension that are underway, incorporate animal welfare performance measures.
- A pan-sector intensive winter grazing action group needs to be established to implement the recommendations in this report, using a behaviour change modelling approach to identify practical mitigations and make the best use of resources.
- Ministry for Primary Industries to lead a debrief of winter 2019 and assess progress against the Taskforce recommendations, for the Taskforce to report back to the Minister by February 2020.