Dear SAFE (NZ) Stop Bashing our New Zealand Dairy Farmers #farmvoices #agchatnz #ProDairy

Back last year Fonterra had announced one of the lowest payouts ever to New Zealand dairy farmers from record highs for the previous seasons down to a mere $3.85 due to a massive fall in global diary prices. To add to the pressure already placed on farmers in the industry animal activist group Save Animals from Exploitation produced a video showing disturbing footage of bobby calves being callously thrown into the back of a stock truck along with the brutal inhumane bashing on the head of calves at an unidentified slaughter plant in the Waikato. The footage had been taken from hidden cameras placed by another activist group affiliated with SAFE (NZ) Farmwatch. Farmwatch investigator John Darroch was the person behind the investigation undertaken by the organisation across 14 farms and the slaughter plant in the Waikato. With the release of the footage the New Zealand Herald (November 30,2015) headliner read 

"'We saw calves torn from mothers' - shocking video exposes dairy industry cruelty"

Fonterra, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers were swift to deplore the appalling footage as were farmers and the public.

This video produced by SAFE (NZ) has been posted on YouTube footage from it also aired on current affairs programme Sunday on November 29, 2015. If you watch this footage, along with the sinister sounding music it seems so compelling. The title "NZ Dairy Cruelty exposed" gives the impression this is normal in dairy farming. The disturbing footage especially at the slaughter plant is heartbreaking to watch but is it really where all bobby calves go to be turned into veal. Is it normal for truck drivers to throw calves into trucks or for a slaughterman to bludgeon calves to death. The manner in which this has been portrayed it appeared to be that way. However when getting to the bottom of it all things don't stack up especially the worst footage involving the inhumane slaughter of the calves.

For starters looking carefully it didn't appear to be at any plant associated with the main processors AFFCO or Silver Fern Farms. In fact it turned out to be a small Waikato based Petfood processor who confirmed they had dismissed the worker concerned. The men caught on the video throwing the calves into the stock truck were later dismissed by the company owner. SAFE (NZ) are by no means new to causing controversy. In 2009 former comedian Mike King and now spokesperson for Mental Health issues had featured in a video produced by SAFE (NZ) to highlight the issues regarding the use of sow crates in the pork farming industry. The former spokesman for NZ Pork was taken to an unnamed commercial piggery under cover of darkness by SAFE (NZ) affiliated activists. He said himself he had been appalled at the conditions the sows were kept in. However in an article in the New Zealand Farmer King had said he had been never been affiliated to SAFE (NZ) and was appalled by its actions over the bobby calf issue. He had written an email to Hans Kriek director of SAFE (NZ)

"Your portrayal of NZ farmers as 'animal terrorists' on the international (scene) are not only false, they are irresponsible in the extreme. The actions of a few is not a reflection of an entire industry, Hans, and one must question what your real motive is. Is it really about animal welfare? Or is it about destroying farmers and the NZ farming industry?"
A few days ago another headliner appeared

Two women dairy farmers ,Waikato based herd manager Gina Greenwood and Jennifer Halligan told the media that animal activists on social media in some posts were telling farmers to commit suicide. A further example of one of the posts which had been given to the media stated:

"I completely agree that farmers are mentally ill. You have to to be to treat animals in such a brutal fashion. Unfortunately a lot of farm workers have the brain size of a pea, and no compassion at all. These helpless vunerable little calves should not be subjected to such viciousness. Their lives already suck. Being surround by these demented uneducated monsters must be terrifying. I don't see farmer suicides as a problem, I see it as justice for these more helpless creatures"
SAFE (NZ) stated they did not support such actions taken by the persons concerned. However, SAFE (NZ) are responsible for this happening in the first place. Their silence by not posting an advisement to their supporters on their social media to refrain from such appalling actions. They should do and can do. So why haven't they? I'll leave SAFE (NZ) to perhaps answer that question.


Time to get growing! #farmvoices #Kaipara #NorthlandNZ

Well I've bitten the bullet. I've thought about this for years, but never really did much about it until now. I'm proud as a peacock for making the decision I have made. After eleven years of not really doing much with the farm other than let my animals run riot everywhere I've decided to start a horticultural venture and finally do something with the land and for me. I need it. I've battled depression for a long time now. It got worse after I gave up my cows (yes I know that sounds so soppy) and even worse still when I found no matter how hard I tried to get a fulltime job it seemed nobody wanted a 51 year old woman who had spent the last seven years raising her last two children to be decent upstanding young people. Next year I'm starting a fulltime course in Sustainable Rural Development and Horticulture at Northtec (I hope!) I've got the enrollment form filled out and now all I have to do is send it in. In the meantime I've signed up with the Open Permaculture School based in the USA. I have to start somewhere so it seemed the logical choice given I have next to no funds for paying for a course! The peacock in the photo was taken down at Hamilton Gardens in the Waikato. I have more news to write about but just for now I thought I'd let you all know about my step into the abyss of the unknown. Wish me luck I'll be needing it! I've started a daily diary as well. You can read it here


Calf club again after five long years #farmvoices #agchatnz #Kaipara #NorthlandNZ

Back in 2010 Michelle quit calf club, after she couldn't catch her calf she had chosen. It was a huge heartbreak for a little girl at the time. She didn't go near calves much until 2012, when she took one of the Cullen family calves to the school pet day, She did all the work herself that year and took out the champion calf on the day. There she is back at calf club after so long at Anne's complete with a very carefully chosen Fresian calf now going by the name of Blueberry. Over the last few years Michelle has gained a lot of experience showing cattle in the ring, last year she took out the handler's class at the Otamatea Group Day, has a trophy for Dexter cattle handling and just keeps on getting better. Now it's a serious business in her view. Blueberry has a cover and lots of Michelle's attention whenever she goes to the dairy farm three times a week. I like the teeth and the look of "Oh please just go away"  My youngest daughter is one determined young woman. It's been a real joy seeing her grow from strength to strength. One day I bet she will be a top cattle judge. Maybe I need 400 acres She's making plans already for a beef stud as it is. I love my girls.


The times - they are a changin' #farmvoices #Kaipara #NorthlandNZ

It;s been over four months since I wrote my last blog post.  A lot has happened and a lot has changed. I no longer have the cows on the farm, after consecutive droughts, a bad winter and not enough money left over to feed them all I cut the stock down. The old man was given away as well but now he is back. I guess he won't be leaving. Cutting the animals down made a huge difference. I actually have grass for a change unlike the previous couple of years when it struggled to even grow. All that aside, a lot has happened. Inaya got her Grand Prior for St John Cadets which is the highest achievement a cadet in the youth programme can achieve. Next week she turns 18 years old. How my girls have grown up so quickly over the years. Michelle has done really well of late. She has sung with international performer Yulia McLean, and has been involved with our local community theatre. Over the  agricultural show season she managed to achieve the highest points for handling Dexter breed cattle and ended up with a fantastic trophy. Next month it's down to Waikato University, Inaya is going to be a law student for a day, and see if she thinks it's something she would like to study next year. Michelle needs more time, but quietly she is setting her own goals and still has an ambition to be a beef cattle breeder, as well as persuing a career in the arts. I'm just the same old crazy Mad Bush Farmer with that bad attitude gleam and grouchy face. I've been through some tough times, but in saying that I've come out a lot stronger. I've had to start thinking about what I can do for my future now my kids are almost both adults and will soon be leaving the nest so to speak. I'm still not 100% certain of my path but I do have some ideas I'm working on. Hopefully it will all work out. Recently our dairy farmers had a bad payout forecast from Fonterra. From $5.80 to $3.85 per kg of milk solids is a huge drop and sadly some farmers will end up losing their farms and their livelihood.worry for them and their families. These guys work so hard seven days a week. Farming is a profession of hope indeed. Let's hope next season's forecast brings better news. I can't think of much more to say right now, but I'm still here and still as mad as a hatter. What will be around the corner this spring we have yet to see. I'll leave you with Bob Dillon and the song written in the same year as I was born. That's cool.


First grape harvest #farmvoices #NorthlandNZ

As I've gradually been clearing up my wilderness of a so-called garden, much to my delight the heritage grapevine "Bishop Pompallier" had some grapes ready to pick. I didn't even fertlise the poor vine this year or even bothered to redo the supports for the canes. Before the cows left I had all but given up hope of ever having any kind of decent farm kitchen garden. Now they have gone I've been able to actually start growing vegetables and fruit again without the worry of finding them destroyed a day later by my naughty jerseys. I found a basket to put the grapes in I had picked. They make for a lovely late summer photograph. Happy me!