SOUTH-WEST farmers and veterinarians have stepped up their response to claims the tough financial situation on many regional farms is causing an animal welfare crisis.
Warrnambool veterinarian Mike Hamblin said there was no animal welfare crisis in the region and that he believed farmers were looking after their livestock well in a difficult financial situation. Dr Hamblin said that while some stock were thinner than normal, he had not seen any starving.
“The situation is dire not from an animal welfare perspective, it’s dire from a financial perspective,” he said.
“We need to get the (federal government’s) farm finance package rolling,” Dr Hamblin said.
Farmer Power spokeswoman Karrinjeet Singh-Mahil said many stock were in poorer condition than in previous seasons but farmers were stepping in to cull stock before they got into distress.
Ms Singh-Mahil said there were indications that many local farmers were culling stock.
When her dairy farm wanted to cull cows, an abattoir had said it did not have the capacity to take them but they managed to get them in as soon as possible the following week.
Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber last week claimed there was an animal welfare crisis in western Victoria.
Mr Barber said a district veterinarian described in an email about seeing livestock suffering from malnutrition and farmers distressed because they could not feed them.
However, he said it appeared the vet had since come “under massive pressure to retract” his claims.
Winslow dairy farmer Scott Gapes said he had to cull less than 10 cows because of their poor condition due to the tough season.
Mr Gapes said culling stock was normal practice on a dairy farm, but he had to cull “a few more than normal” this season.
Some of the losses were due to pregnancy toxaemia, which is often caused by limited or poor feed.
“It’s not just the stock that are suffering,” Mr Gapes said.
“It’s farmers that are suffering the most.
“We are doing what we can to keep our cattle fed at great cost.” Mr Gapes said he had to borrow money to buy in feed for his cattle
Third-generation dairy farmer Lachlan Sutherland, of Larpent, west of Colac, said while the lift in milk prices and recent rains had brought more optimism to the industry, it would take a few months before south-west farmers saw any improvement to their financial situation.
“Until you have fodder, you have to pay high prices (to buy it in),” Mr Sutherland said.