Marketing these animals could be a breach of the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act, NZ Angus Association president Tim Brittain told members in a memo on June 10.
The association was particularly concerned about the sale of bulls that were carriers of the genetic defects known as AMC (curly calf), NHC, or CA, and that there were untested suspects based on pedigree risk analysis.
The association suspected a number of carrier bulls would have been sold unwittingly to the commercial market before DNA tests were available for the defects.
“By continuing to sell and promote carriers and untested suspects into the market, the board feels those that take this path undermine the efforts of NZ Angus and its members in their drive to eradicate these defects,” Brittain said in his memo.
The effort to stamp out the defects goes back several years and was brought into focus 18 months ago by the association’s previous president, Bruce Alexander, who asked members to consider the wider aspects of genetic defects and the impact it could have on fellow breeders and commercial clients.
Many of the country’s largest Angus bull studs and commercial operations disclose the risk of the genetic disorders animal-by-animal in their sale catalogues.
A disclaimer on the NZ Angus website also notes the defects, saying any person relying directly or indirectly on information on the site relating to AMC, NHC, or CA would not be able to bring a claim against the association for expenses, costs, liability or damages.
The association’s national council plainly believes current disclosure is insufficient to protect buyers and sellers.
Brittain said last month he was trying to drive home a message farmers should get rid of defective animals as quickly as possible.
NZ Angus would still support members breeding females free of genetic disorders by testing from suspect or carrier cows. That would allow a farmer to retain desirable genetics.
However, the board could not accept tested or suspect carrier cows being sold to the public, because of the risk of disorders being inherited in studs and commercial herds.
Brittain cast doubt on breeders’ ability to contain the problem.
“While some members do indicate that (affected) bulls are suitable for crossbreeding, a percentage of females from that cross will be carriers and if they are kept for mating and mated to a carrier bull later in their life, progeny could very well be affected,” he said.
NZ Angus had a legal opinion it was irresponsible for breeders not to act on defects in their herd and that offending farmers could be in breach of the Consumer Guarantee Act and the Fair Trading Act, sections 9, 10 and 13.
The advice was that these clauses could apply to the sale of animals and many other products, including sale bulls and other cattle that carry the genetic disorders.
“By continuing to sell and promote carriers and untested suspects into the market, the board feels those that take this path undermine the efforts of NZ Angus and its members in their drive to eradicate these defects.”
Angus Association president
NZ Angus general manager Rob Wyllie told The New Zealand Farmers Weekly the association had been dealing with the defects successfully for the past four or five years.
It was making progress in removing the flaws and he didn’t believe the Angus breed deserved to be singled out for attention because the defects were also present in other breeds.
He acknowledged there had been disagreement within the national NZ Angus council over its approach to managing the defects but that had been resolved, he said.
An Angus breeder who referred The New Zealand Farmers Weekly to Brittain’s memo said one breeder who had been asked to withdraw affected bulls from sale would have lost $50,000-$70,000 had he complied.
He believed many in the sector were reluctant to act on the disorders, including stock firms, which had an interest in selling progeny through saleyards.
But it was mad for the industry to maintain an attitude of “she’ll be right”, he said.
There was evidence that in the past 25 years sheep farmers had made productivity gains of about 80% from improved genetics, while in the same period the beef sector had recorded 35%.
“I’m in this industry and I get upset when I see people, badly advised, paying $6000, $8000, $10,000 for bulls that are carriers.”
Our source believed Brittain’s memo would hopefully come to be seen as a “smoking gun” for an overhaul in the sale process.
Related story: Genetic defects afflicting Angus breed explained
NB: The New Zealand Farmers Weekly would like to confirm that Red Oak Angus breeder Ric Orr was neither the source of the memo cited in this article, nor did he provide the comment in it. He was not involved in the story in any way.