To this end, the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC), supported by Dairy Australia, has been implementing a policy to phase out the use of non-therapeutic or routine calving induction since 2016.
In 2018, the ADIC agreed that as of January 1, 2022, all routine calving induction should end. The policy covered all non-therapeutic inductions. The milestone was a target in the Australian Dairy Sustainability Framework.
In good news for the industry, the milestone was reached on schedule. Veterinary clinics are no longer offering the service.
This achievement may not be a surprise. Data from vets indicated very few dairy herds using induction last year, with those herds inducing very few animals. Yet, it is an achievement, nonetheless.
Non-regulatory practice change is possible
The action on this policy should be celebrated as a success of collaboration within the dairy industry and of non-regulatory practice change.
Our industry was facing pressure from buyers of our milk and advocacy groups for many years to phase out routine calving induction. Concerns focus on the welfare of the premature calves and for the cow if performed inappropriately.
New Zealand concluded the phase-out of routine calving induction in 2015, leaving Australia as the only western country using the practice.
At that time, the practice of inducing cows to deliver their calf before full term was used on some farms to maintain a compact calving pattern. This phase-out did not focus on inductions for ‘therapeutic’ purposes, such as induction of mismated heifers. Routine calving induction was more common in regions favouring seasonal calving over year-round calving.
A stepped approach backed by collaboration
Industry bodies met with farmers, vets and processors to understand what was possible, and a phase-out was agreed in 2015, to begin in 2016. This was an industry-led process, without regulatory or legal mechanisms for implementation.
We took a stepped approach, limiting veterinarians to induce up to 15 per cent of a herd in 2016, 12pc in 2017, 10pc in 2018, 8pc in 2019, 6pc in 2020, 5pc in 2021 and 0pc from this year.
These limits were agreed by the Calving Induction Steering Committee, It includes representatives from ADF, the Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF) and Australian Cattle Veterinarians (ACV).
From 2015 to 2020, ADIC hired an independent consultant to contact vets to provide information about inductions, such as the number of cows induced and herd size.
In 2020, we developed a process that involved a form filled out cow-side by the vet. Copies of this form are given to the farm, kept by the vet and sent to the Calving Induction Steering Committee secretariat. With the farmer’s permission, the form was also provided to the milk processor.
A great achievement for farmers, industry
Reaching this milestone is a great achievement for our industry. It shows that we are proactive on animal welfare and able to meet the expectations of the community, our customers and consumers.