The public has been shocked by photos of cows standing in Canterbury’s Lake Taylor next to a Department of Conservation site. It would certainly make most of us think twice about hopping in the water to cool off when we can see exactly what we are sharing the lake with.
But this should come as no surprise – although most dairy farmers have been taking action to keep their cows and their poo out of our rivers and lakes, there are no rules encouraging beef farmers to do the same. So actually all of us all over the nation, every time we swim in a river or lake, or even an estuary, are probably sharing that water with a beef beast. We just don’t see it.
Judging by the lack of tags on the cattle’s ears, and the lack of udders, the photos taken at Lake Taylor are of beef cattle. In their 4th report, the Land and Water Forum agreed that all farmed animals that enjoy wallowing – pigs, deer and beef cattle – should be kept out of streams. We can see clearly now why the Government needs to act urgently to implement this recommendation.
As we can see from the infographic below, cows and bulls enjoy standing in water, especially in the heat of summer. When they are in water they are far more likely to excrete urine and faeces. Each animal creates 14 times as much excrement as a human, so for 4m beef cattle that is the equivalent of 56m people crapping in our rivers and lakes. This is a far bigger risk to our fresh water than freedom campers.