It's an early winter morning, dark and chilly, but Northland dairy farmer Jane Hutchings couldn’t be happier.
“Calf club days are a highlight of the year for all families and we know how much children and adults love the day,” DairyNZ says.
“However in this heightened time of biosecurity risk, the likelihood of Mycoplasma bovis being spread from animal to animal must be considered.
“Ultimately, if animals don’t come into contact, the risk of spread is low. However it is likely animals will come into contact at a calf day and under the current climate of heightened biosecurity in New Zealamd, DairyNZ and MPI agree that mixing young animals and then returning them to their home farm is a risk,” DairyNZ told Dairy News.
“We recommended that, while Mycoplasma bovis eradication is underway, schools and those managing calf days look for alternatives. It could become a ‘pet day’ with other pets and animals or use technology to provide an innovative compromise.”
Dave Harrison, BLNZ general manager policy and advocacy, says if schools and clubs want to go ahead with events, then MPI has a factsheet with some simple precautions that can be taken to minimise the risks.
If schools still want to carry out calf club days and are planning to manage the risk of animals coming into contact, then DairyNZ encourages them to apply the following:
- Calves from farms under movement restrictions will not be allowed to come to school, and children from these farms should be allowed to bring an alternative pet.
- Some farmers will not want calves from their farms going to school and returning home, and an alternative pet should be allowed under these circumstances.
- All calves (and other animals) coming to school must be healthy on the day of the calf club. If in doubt leave them at home.
- All calves must be correctly identified with NAIT tags.
- All animals must arrive clean, i.e. no mud or poo on the animal’s coat or feet.
- All children (and adults) must come with clean footwear and clothing. Footwear should be cleaned and disinfected before returning home.
- Each calf must have its own halter and lead rope and these are not to be shared with other calves; its own drinking bowl or container; and its own feeding bottle or bucket if it is going to be fed.
- Calves should be kept separated as much as possible.
- Children should be encouraged not to handle each other’s calves without washing or sanitising hands between calves, especially if children’s fingers have been inside a calf’s mouth. Care should also be taken to prevent calves sucking clothing.
- Judges should sanitise their hands after handling each calf, and calves should be prevented from mouthing clothing and any other items.
- If milk is brought from the farm for feeding calves this milk must only be fed to the calf from that farm and not to any other calves. If there is a concern about milk, then milk replacer should be used.