11 Jan 2016

Final report into killer swedes released

8:17 pm on 11 January 2016

The group investigating the fatal poisoning of hundreds of animals by swedes in Southland has issued one last warning to farmers not to feed herbicide tolerant swedes to cows in the spring.


Photo: 123RF

The Southland Swedes working group today released its final report into the incident which left hundreds - if not thousands - of sheep and cows dead across the region.

In 2014 farmers across Southland reported sick, dead and dying livestock - after they'd been fed on swedes - mostly a new herbicide tolerant variety developed and sold by PGG Wrightson Seeds.

Farmers were subsequently warned by industry experts not to feed the HT Swede variety to cows when they were heavily pregnant or with calves - because the chemically mutated HT swedes were producing unnaturally high levels of glucosinolates that are toxic to livestock.

One of the members on the Southland Swede working group, Dairy NZ's Southland regional leader, Richard Kyte, said today's final report delivered the science behind the warnings.

"The HT Swedes in the plant samples showed a higher level of glucosinolates which have caused a problem with animal health.

"The recommendation we are making is certainly not to feed them during the Spring," Dr Kyte said.

The working group only took samples of the HT Swedes during the spring, so it was unable to say whether the crop was safe for livestock at other times of the year.

But the Green Party said it was outrageous that the killer mutant swedes remained on the market at all.

Associate primary industries spokesperson Steffan Browning said he could not believe the HT Swedes were still being sold to farmers.

"This product is clearly not fit for purpose - the HT Swedes should be withdrawn off the market, this one should have been pulled earlier - it should be pulled now," Mr Browning said.

Mr Browning said the report was pathetic and that the Ministry for Primary Industries had failed farmers miserably.

"The report effectively is a whitewash and an acceptance of using something that is damaging to animals but just managing it in a way that they can still get away with - that's not good enough."

A spokesperson for PGG Wrightson Seeds said the company would continue to sell HT Swedes to farmers and that it will continue to offer advice about when it should and shouldn't be fed to livestock.

And the Ministry for Primary Industries said it will continue to work with the dairy industry and fodder crop suppliers to provide advice to farmers on feeding practices and the associated risks.


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