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Winter cropping practices 'unacceptable' - govt

Eric Frykberg, Reporter

The government says many aspects of the practice of winter cropping are unacceptable and it wants changes.

a group of cows,
some leg-deep in mud

Photo: Supplied

A taskforce is being established to investigate and find solutions.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor said he was concerned about animal welfare.

"Images of cows up to their knees in mud, unable to lie down and rest, and calving in these conditions is unacceptable to me," he said.

"I've heard loud and clear from the public that it's unacceptable to them too."

Winter cropping happens when livestock is strip fed a crop which can sometimes leave the animals wallowing in mud as they trample a small fenced space where the food is available.

Farmers have said this can have beneficial effects as it feeds livestock greater quantities of food, fills their stomachs and enables them to stay warm in winter.

Mr O'Connor conceded there were these advantages, but there were plenty of disdvantages as well.

"Winter crop grazing is necessary in some parts of the country to provide enough feed for stock at a time when there's not a lot of pasture," he said.

"Done well, it provides animals with quality feed to keep them warm over winter. Done badly, it means cattle can be knee deep in mud which gives rise to completely justifiable concerns for their welfare."

He said winter grazing also had an environmental impact and the government was working on ways to address that too.

"I am bringing together a taskforce of vets, industry leaders and officials to identify the issues and bring me some solutions," he said.

"I've asked the group to meet for the first time in the next few weeks and to present back to me with first-steps by the end of the month."

The problem is worst when cows run low on food or trample pasture into mud in a small area to get at the food that is made available.

Animal activists have broadcast footage of this and have called for the practise to be banned.


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