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Cleaning Up New Zealand's Roads

An information resource and code of practice to deal with the messy problem of stock effluent "spillage" on New Zealand roads has been released, looking at all aspects from farm practices to meat quality.

Through the work of scientists such as Dr Roy Bickerstaffe, Professor of Food Technology at Lincoln University, it is now known that low-stress handling of stock in the 48 hours prior to slaughtering is a major determinant in creating an animal with the right pH level to optimise tenderness.

One way of reducing both the stress and the volume of effluent on the trucks is to prepare stock, including standing them before transportation so that they "empty out". This means they will be presented more cleanly on arrival at the meat processing plant and so will not have to undergo the additional stress of extensive hosing down. Crucial to this is careful attention to timetabling from the on-farm presentation, selection and collection of animals to their off-loading.

To get a handle on the number of starting points and destinations, the frequency of journeys, distances and times involved, volume of stock involved and other essential data, Lincoln University PhD researcher Jean-Paul Thull has produced a computer model for a network of dump sites along the state highways of the South Island.

Using this model Thull is able to test the impact of destinations receiving effluent; standing stock to empty out prior to transportation; the size of holding tanks on trucks; and weather conditions (wet or dry), in order to ascertain the minimum number of in-transit dump sites needed on highways in the South Island.

"Health hazards and traffic dangers aside, effluent spillage is one big blot on New Zealand's clean, green' image," says Thull, "and ultimately the marketplace won't tolerate it. That's the bottom line!"