Comment: Preparation is key for calving and stock movements, writes Federated Farmers Dairy Policy Advisor Ann Thompson.

Working with animals is never easy, especially if you or they are under stress.

Broken cow tails is a sign that something wasn't going quite right at the time, although I know cows' tails are easy to break — they are long but not as flexible as you would think — and they are at the business end of the cow that farmers usually deal with.

Encouraging cows to move is easy for some, especially those who have grown up with them and found out, probably via training for calf club days, how to work with them. For some people, however, it's a mystery to them that needs to be taught.

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We're coming up to that time when cows go off to grazing. This can be a time of stress, and getting cows on to the truck can certainly be just that. Having a couple of calm people there, allowing time and not rushing, can help.

Some farmers are into autumn calving, and will be starting to milk. Teaching young cows newly calved how to manage the milking shed takes time, and all 25 per cent of the replacement cows will be unused to having cups on.

Federated Farmers Dairy Policy Advisor Ann Thompson. Photo / Supplied
Federated Farmers Dairy Policy Advisor Ann Thompson. Photo / Supplied

For some it is painful, and they will kick out to get the cups off. Milkers can take heart from the knowledge that the cow is not out to get them, but to get that wretched contraption off their teats.

At least at this time of the year the weather is kinder, with days not too dark or cold. I am sure teaching cows in spring is a more testing time for farmers, with those cold, wet, dark spring mornings.

Some 'farmers' will punish their cows for kicking out or not going in the right direction by breaking their tails — as I said, it's not hard to do. But it is so wrong.

Breaking a tail is not acceptable. It's not right, and it causes pain. It's also, quite properly, against the law. And it's a sign that something on the farm isn't right. If you see it, ask the farmer what's up.

If you need help in working with animals, ask your farm owner or some other experienced person. It's not rocket science, so it can be taught. All you need to do is realise that punishing animals is not right.

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Hooking into Young Farmers or Federated Farmers will bring you in touch with others who can train you or offer advice. Help can also be found by going to DairyNZ farm days and other discussion groups.