Dutch government accelerates dairy cow cull
The Netherlands has decided to accept all applicants to its oversubscribed dairy herd reduction scheme, culling more than 30,000 cows in the coming weeks.

In a letter to Parliament this week, Dutch Agriculture Minister Martijn van Dam said he was accepting all applications to the first tranche of the scheme designed to curb phosphate emissions by reducing the size of Europe's third-largest dairy herd.

Choosing applicants at random would be detrimental to the effectiveness of the measure

The scheme offers a €300/cow slaughter premium and the government was planning to remove 40,000 cows through successive rounds of applications from late February to May. With 497 farms already applying to have 31,500 cows slaughtered in the first round last week, the minister has decided to accept all applications, arguing that "choosing applicants at random would be detrimental to the effectiveness of the measure". As a result, he has cancelled the next rounds, with the possibility of further applications in May.

He added that his administration would process existing applications through March and April, indicating that large numbers of cows will be cleared for slaughter in the coming weeks. This extra volume of cow beef on the European market is likely to have an impact on cow prices.

60,000 cows to be culled in total

Van Dam said that applications so far account for 52% of the phosphate reduction target from the dairy herd, with the plan's overall aim remaining to remove 60,000 cows over time.

Further reductions will be imposed on Dutch dairy farmers through a quota system and lower phosphorus content in feed rations. Overall, the Netherlands' dairy herd is expected to shrink by 11% this year, after two years of continued increase in cow numbers and milk supply.

The country has exceeded its EU phosphate limits for three years and is at risk of losing its derogation if drastic measures are not implemented.

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Full coverage: farming in the Netherlands

100,000 lambs feared dead after New Zealand storm
Farmers face difficult spring weather in New Zealand as lambing and calving are in full swing.

Strong winds and heavy rainfall on New Zealand's North Island earlier this month have killed an estimated 100,000 new-born lambs, an industry analyst told local media.

Mel Croad of AgriHQ told TV New Zealand that individual farmers had lost hundreds of lambs in the storm, and some thousands.

More than 20m lambs are born each year in New Zealand.

Snow storm

A snow storm is now blanketing parts of the country's South Island, causing further stress to farmers and animals. Power outages were reported in the Otago region this Monday.

The region's dairy herds are in the middle of spring calving and New Zealand's milk production peaks in October.

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Fonterra posts €110m loss

‘New Zealand will have less cows and produce less milk in the future'

Fonterra posts €110m loss
The largest dairy exporter in the world has released poor annual results amid declining profitability and leadership shake-ups.

New Zealand's largest milk processor, Fonterra, has published accounts showing a €110m net loss after tax for the 2018 financial year. According to local media reports, this is the first loss in the co-op's 17-year history.

The bad result results from a combination of falling profitability, with Fonterra's EBIT falling by 22% in the past year, and exceptional charges related to its overseas partners.

The co-op wrote €247m off the value of its Chinese subsidiary, Beingmate, and paid Danone €131m in compensation for a past food safety scare.

Rising costs

Chief executive Miles Hurrell reported rising costs across the business, from an increase in the farmgate milk price late in the last season – which he said was good to co-op members – to other ingredient, development and support costs.

"There are no two ways about it. These results are disappointing," he wrote in Fonterra's annual report.

The bad result are a consequence of falling profitability and exceptional charges

Chair John Monaghan added that "Beingmate's unacceptable performance over the year has been frustrating".

Fonterra also faced the departure of both its former chief executive Theo Spierings and chair John Wilson in the past financial year.

BSE found in cow in the US
An atypical case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was found in a cow in Florida.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this Wednesday that it had identified an atypical BSE case in a six-year-old mixed-breed beef cow in Florida.

"This animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States," the Department said.

Atypical BSE

This is the sixth BSE case ever detected in the US. Of the five previous cases, the first, in 2003, was a case of classical BSE in a cow imported from Canada. Classical BSE is the type associated with contaminated feed and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, which caused the European mad cow crisis at the end of the 20th century.

All other cases in the US have been atypical, according to the USDA. Atypical BSE appears spontaneously in older cattle and remains unexplained. Similar cases appear sporadically in Europe, including the last Irish one in Co Galway in January 2017.

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BSE confirmed in US cow – cow did not enter the food chain

NI and Scotland's negligible BSE risk takes effect