Finding value in the unwanted

A Te Awamutu calf rearer has been providing livestock for export for 15 years and he is extremely disappointed at the government’s decision to ban livestock exports from New Zealand.

After spending time on feedlots and visiting rural villages in China, Ian Farrelly knows how much the Chinese people value the livestock they import.

“As individual farmers, we will adapt and China can get their animals from anywhere,” Ian says.

“But we were their preferred source, and now it’s the animal welfare that is going to suffer, as well as the economic impacts and the damage to the relationship.”

When he started calf rearing he was recognising a solution for unwanted calves, now he rears between 10 and 12,000 calves every year, with around 20% destined for the export market. New Zealand had the potential to increase exported livestock to 500,000 animals over the next ten years.

“I could’ve easily been exporting more calves and I’m really worried about the fate of all the excess animals we will have now.”

“I struggle to understand why the practice is being banned for animal welfare reasons, yet the result will mean we are left with at least half a million more bobby calves every year.” - Ian Farrelly

Providing support

Many countries are not self-sufficient in terms of agriculture and food production and Farrelly sees the opportunity for New Zealand to provide livestock to help fill that need and develop relationships with those countries for the products we export.

“We’ve seen with covid the anxiety from countries who are unable to feed their people themselves, for example, China relies on the imported stock to provide food for their people.

“They won’t ever be able to exclusively support their 1.4 billion people, they don’t have the space or water security to farm enough animals,” he says.

The calves he rears for export are destined to be dairy milking cows or beef breeding stock in China.

“They were buying our unwanted animals, and paying up to 3000 New Zealand dollars for them. They need so many they will never be in a position where they don’t need to import livestock.”

“And people who pay that kind of money for an animal are not going to mistreat them, these animals are so well looked after, on the feedlots and in the communities, I’ve seen it firsthand.”

Sharing frustration

Ian is frustrated about the process the New Zealand government has neglected in making their decision, especially because the Chinese value relationships so much.

“They didn’t consult with the industry here, and they didn’t include the Chinese in their decision-making process.

“And with the issues around travel at the moment we can’t even go and see them to say that we are sorry about what has happened.”

This story was first published in the November 2021 issue of Dairy Farmer magazine.


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