Outrage over hidden-camera footage of the treatment of bobby calves illustrates many people's disconnect with farming life, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard says.
The Ministry for Primary Industries has started an investigation into the video, from activist group Farmwatch, which shows bobby calves being thrown into trucks on their backs and dragged by their limbs.
The group released footage of similar treatment of calves last year, which resulted in a public outcry and new industry guidelines.
Farmwatch said the abuse of calves was common in the dairy industry.
Mr Hoggard said the footage of a calf being dragged by the leg was very bad, but the rest of the video showed typical farm life.
"No farmer I've heard of would think [dragging a calf by the leg was] good - if that happened on their farm they would have given the employee a good tune-up on how to properly handle calves," Mr Hoggard said.
"If people found the rest of the footage of calves being placed in a trailer and a trailer of calves being moved - if they thought that was bad, well, that is part of reality.
"If people are finding that distressing then it does speak to a level of disconnectedness with farming practices."
The video also showed calves being thrown into a truck, which Mr Hoggard said should not be blamed on farmers
"It's outside of farmers' control how the truck drivers handle the stock."
It was best practice to put a calf into a high truck-door rump first to stop its legs from getting caught and prevent it falling back out and hurting itself.
But Mr Hoggard said the truck drivers in the video were a bit rough.
"It definitely looked rough. It wouldn't look great to someone who isn't used to farming."
Manawatu farm consultant Gary Massicks said he was worried people were jumping to conclusions about the dairy industry.
"There is certainly some behaviour there that I consider rough, but I would not agree with the comments that this is the vast majority.
"To lift the calf up and put it on its feet in the stock truck is not best practice, that's not very safe. So the calves [have] to be lifted up and put on its side or back, which certainly did happen in some of that footage."
Mr Massicks said getting the videos would have required trespassing and breaking health and safety regulations.