9 Sep 2015

MPI downplays dangers of killer swedes

6:25 pm on 9 September 2015

The Minister for Primary Industries has downplayed the dangers of herbicide tolerant swedes which killed hundreds of cows in Southland last year.

National MP, Nathan Guy.

National MP, Nathan Guy. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Dairy New Zealand is urging farmers not to feed the swedes to cows in spring when their animals are pregnant or in-calf but Nathan Guy has ruled out taking the deadly swedes off the market.

Green MP Steffan Browning asked Mr Guy in Parliament yesterday if the Government would help affected farmers.

"Will the Government provide compensation to farmers whose cows fell ill or died from eating herbicide tolerant swedes?"

Mr Guy: "No, it is the responsibility of the sellers of fodder crops to ensure that feed is fit for purpose. This was a regional incident, in one part of the country, with a range of contributing factors.

"MPI advises farmers to apply caution when feeding all brassica fodder crops and to follow the advice issued by Dairy NZ."

Mr Browning asked Mr Guy if he was aware of a new report from a Southland vet.

"Was Dr Mark Brian's paper, which he presented at the New Zealand Veterinary Association conference in June, wrong when it said in winter 2014 cows in central Southland were seven times more likely to die on HT swedes than any other grazing type?"

Mr Guy said he had not seen the report.

"It was because of climatic conditions primarily, which meant that the swede crops in question grew quicker than normal which meant that there were higher compounds of glucosinolates."

However, the official report by Dairy NZ actually showed the herbicide tolerant swedes produced much higher levels of poisonous glucosinolates than natural swedes.