Thursday, April 25, 2024

Casualty calf services on offer in Waikato and Canterbury

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Farmers are being advised to check what casualty calf and lamb collection services are available in their areas, as calving and lambing gets under way in many regions. Federated Farmers dairy chair Wayne Langford says casualty calf collections had not reverted back to the service offered pre-covid after the leather industry suffered a slump in prices.
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Farmers needed to check to see what services are available in their area.

“We’re encouraging farmers to contact their regular pickup. In most cases they are still running; in some places we have heard they are and in other places they aren’t,” Langford said.

He says those farmers in areas where pickups no longer occurred needed to make sure they were properly following their local councils’ guidelines when disposing of these animals.

“It’s not a major issue and they just need to ensure it’s done properly,” he said.

Around 4.5-5 million calves are born in New Zealand every year. Of those, around 40% are bobby calves, 30% are replacements and the rest are reared for beef. According to Beef + Lamb NZ’s 2020 Lamb Crop report, around 22.9 million lambs were born last year.

In the North Island, calf collection services are available in the greater Waikato area through Waitoa Tannery.

Waitoa chair Tony Egan says the service ran from the Bombay Hills south of Auckland, down to Taupō.

It had ceased pickups in Northland because the transportation costs involved in the collections meant it was no longer economically viable.

He says the skin market had improved following its covid slump.

“Skins have improved over the last year, which is good because we lost money last year,” Egan said.

“They are very low in tallow, which is why you don’t get much for them. The skin basically pays for the exercise.”

Taranaki By-Products Ltd covers Urenui to Waverly and the coast, according to its website. It picks up cows, sheep and goats, as long as the animal is over 100kg. It only collects calves if it is physically tied to a cow.

Likewise, Hawke’s Bay-based Lowe Corporation does not collect calves.

In the South Island, Christchurch-based WG Ltd Partnership general manger Bernie Lynskey says they had informed farmers in the greater Canterbury area that there will be a full collection service for casualty calves.

Farmers will be required to pay $12 for the collection to cover transport costs. A decision had yet to be made whether to include lambs in that service.

“We traditionally have always done lambs but at this stage if we do lambs, it will be a limited service,” Lynskey said.

“If I was a betting man, there would be no collection.”

Leather prices had been on a downward trend and the covid-19 pandemic pushed the market over the edge. While there had been a slight improvement in bovine leather prices, it had still not recovered to a level where it was profitable.

“The calf market has improved a bit and the guts of that is that the material that comes from the casualty animals is sold at a discount. It’s improved a bit, but it’s nothing like what it has been,” he said.

“The reality is that people made no profit last year and made a bloody big loss.

“Unfortunately, the model that farmers liked, where  they got paid something for the casualty stock, I think that’s probably gone forever.”

The last decent season for casualty calf and lamb collections was three years ago. At the time, there were five companies servicing farmers. Two of these were on the West Coast and the rest offered services in Southland/Otago and Canterbury.

Today, WG Ltd Partnership were the only business still running after Slink Skins went into receivership last year and the Lowe Corporation pulled out of the casualty operation in the South Island.

Lynskey says they also pulled out of the West Coast because it became too costly to service.

In Southland, Newtons Slinkskins owner Trevor Newton says he was still deciding whether to offer a collection service this year.

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