Live cattle shipment boosts Fonterra's presence in China

Fonterra has taken another major step into China with what is thought to be New Zealand's largest live cattle shipment.

Nearly 11,000 in-calf dairy cows arrived by sea, bound for Fonterra-owned farming hubs near Beijing.

The Fonterra-owned cows left New Zealand in late July and as the company looks to expand its operations in China more animals are getting ready to head that way.

More calves have been bred especially for Chinese conditions and will leave when they are carrying calves of their own at around two years old.

"It's actually a win-win. It's helping grow the industry and create more demand for New Zealand milk," farmer and Fonterra director Ian Farrelly said.

And with 11,000 Kiwi cows already docked in China those in the industry are confident there's room for more without creating competition for New Zealand farmers and milk products.

"The economy over there is growing so quickly, there's something like 60,000 babies born a day, half of them are born in the city and most are bought up on milk," Mr Farrelly says.

Concern has been raised about live export in the past but Fonterra says animal welfare is a top priority and while three cows died on the trip, the majority gained weight.

"We have a team of specialists on board and take all measures we can to ensure animal comfort," livestock director Fiona Carrick says.

The cows will be in quarantine for 45 days before they head to a farm.

Life for the cows will be different in China but Fonterra says they are very well looked after. Facilities are world class, they live on feed lots and when they are inside there's air conditioning and they are milked three times a day.

Federated Farmers is supportive of sending stock to China but concedes some local farmers needing to buy stock might be worried about such a huge number of animals leaving the NZ market.

"Obviously if you kept them all here in New Zealand you would increase the supply in New Zealand and prices would be down," Federated Farmers dairy industry group chairperson Andrew Hoggard said.

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