As many as 300,000 casualty calves will have to be buried on-farm this spring instead of being sent away for processing by slink skin processors.

Wallace Group LP South Island general manager Bernie Lynskey confirmed the company was stopping its dead calf collection in the South Island on Monday, with a loss of about 100 to 120 jobs. Covid-19 has crashed skin and rendering prices, with numerous skin buyers and casualty stock operators closing up or going into receivership. The market for lower grade skins has dropped significantly, and meat and bone prices have collapsed. The company had processing plants throughout the South Island, including at Mataura, Waimate, and Hororata. The company processed about 300,000 calves last season. It would still continue to collect and process dead cows this year he said.

Last week the Wallace Group LP met with Government officials to discuss funding to save the industry, Lynskey said. “We’re really quite disappointed in the meeting and the outcome. We had hoped to get some industry funding so we could continue, but we have had to make the decision to cease our dead calf collection.​​​​ “This industry provides an alternative to casualty stock being buried and then leaching into the water table. Yes, we have some emissions, but they are better than the alternative.’’

A meeting between the Ministry for Primary Industries and industry officials was held last Thursday. “Yesterday’s meeting was attended by a group from across the animal industries and further discussions are planned. MPI remains committed to working with the sector to achieve a resolution to this issue,’’ an MPI spokesperson said on Friday.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said he was aware that in some areas, notably the South Island, processors were not collecting slinks, claiming it was not commercially viable. ”I understand collections in most of the main farming areas of the North Island will proceed this year, but in the South Island, one of the companies is planning to charge for, rather than pay for, collection. That company has applied for Government funding to develop capacity to process dead livestock. A decision is pending on that.’’

The sector bodies, DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand, have communicated the situation with farmers, encouraging them to check with their usual service provider about collection this season, he said.

Newton Slink Skins, of Mataura, also announced last month that its calf collection was on hold for the season. Neither company has announced whether they will be collecting dead lambs this season.

Last month Wallace Group LP wrote to farmers, advising it was implementing charging system for dead cow and calf collection, which it said were significantly lower than off-farm disposal to landfill. “We got less than 10 per cent buy-in from the industry for that.’’ Usually dead stock is picked up by slink skin companies, which pay farmers for the dead stock and then process the skins for export.