Managing Calf Welfare

The care of calves at every stage of the Australian dairy industry supply chain is a high priority. Everyone involved in their management – whether on farm, during transport, at the saleyards or at processing, plays an important role in ensuring their welfare.

Calf management

Good management of calves ensures they are always well-treated. To achieve this, calves should always be:

  • Fed colostrum (2–4 litres/calf) in first 24 hours of life.
  • Fed daily with adequate milk or milk replacer and always have easy access to water.
  • Protected from the elements and provided adequate bedding to keep clean and dry. Exposed concrete, bare earth and mud floors are not acceptable.
  • Treated gently and never thrown, hit, dropped or dragged. Bobby calves must not be moved using dogs or electric prodders.
  • Treated or humanely euthanised as soon as possible when sick or injured.

Care during transport and sale

Those responsible for handling and transporting bobby calves, such as farmers, calf buyers, agents, saleyards, transporters and meat processors, must follow the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for Land Transport of Livestock, which states:

  • Calves are always handled with care.
  • All calves transported from a farm are healthy and fit to load.
  • All calves consigned to a saleyard, calf sales or to a processor must be at least five days old.
  • Calves receive a liquid feed within six hours of transport with the details recorded and available for future audit.
  • Adequate shelter from the weather is provided to calves prior to pick up.
  • Any calves sold must be antibiotic free and not subject to any withholding period.
  • Sale calves must be identified with an NLIS tag and accompanied by a vendor declaration.

Cow-calf separation

It is standard dairy industry practice to separate calves from cows within 24 hours of birth. This is done to reduce the risk of disease transmission to the calf (e.g. Johne’s Disease), to ensure adequate colostrum and feed intake, and simplify disease detection.

Aspects of cow-calf separation require further investigation and research regarding practicalities of potential approaches for farmers and their impact on animal health and welfare.

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