Managing bobby calf welfare
Care of calves is a high priority for the dairy industry. Animal welfare requirements apply to all calves born on-farm, whether they are destined for the milking herd, reared elsewhere for beef or marketed as bobby calves.
The dairy industry is working with calf buyers and transporters, saleyard agents and abattoir workers to ensure everyone involved in the management, transportation, handling and marketing of bobby calves understands their responsibilities to protect calf health and welfare and meets the agreed standards.
The Rearing Healthy Calves manual provides information on industry agreed calf management practices.
A bobby calf is:
- Less than 30 days old
- Weighs less than 80kg liveweight
- Is usually a dairy breed or cross
- Is sold for meat or reared for dairy beef
About 400,000 bobby calves are processed in Australia each year, supporting local jobs and providing a valuable protein resource.
The dairy industry is investing in the welfare of bobby calves through:
- Training to ensure farmers are aware of their responsibilities for the rearing and housing of all calves and guaranteeing fitness for sale
- A joint project with processors and saleyards to train people that manage and handle bobby calves
- A bobby calf traceability trial to verify whole-of-supply-chain responsibility for bobby calves
Dairy beef producers source excess calves from dairy farms to rear and grow for specialised lean beef markets.
Rearing calves is an expensive business, with at least a third of the total cost incurred during the first 12 weeks of a calf's life. Therefore, it is very important buyers select and purchase strong, bright, healthy calves from a clean, disease-free environment and that calves are carefully selected to meet the specifications of the target market.
Calf management across the supply chainPDF, 1.03 MB
dairy beef calves what makes a good onePDF, 146.25 KB
Bobby calves for sale sign
It is now a legal requirement for farmers to clearly communicate to transporters that bobby calves offered for sale are fit for transport.
To help with this process, Dairy Australia has developed a sign for the calf pen.
To use this sign, fill in the time the calves were last fed and the latest time for pick-up (within six hours of last feeding).
Provide your phone number in case the calf buyer needs to contact you.
To order a free Bobby Calves for sale sign please contact us via email or a call.
Care of bobby calves during transport
All people responsible for the handling and transport of bobby calves – including farmers, calf buyers, agents, saleyards, transporters and meat processors – must follow the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for Land Transport of Livestock.
Developed in consultation with industry, animal welfare groups, governments and the public, the standards – which are incorporated in state legislation – require all those involved in the transportation of bobby calves to be responsible for the welfare of the animals under their care. Everyone who handles calves must treat them with care and patience at all times and protect them from cold and heat. Calves must not be moved with dogs or electric prodders.
As an official decision regarding the maximum "time-off-feed" for bobby calves from farm to processing is still pending, an industry standard for the transport of calves has been developed by representatives from the dairy industry, transporters, calf buyers and meat processors.
The standard requires that calves must be slaughtered or fed within 30 hours from the last feed.
The industry standard complements existing national standards that limit transport time and require calves to be fed within six hours before leaving the farm.
Calves must be delivered in less than 18 hours from last feed and spend no more than 12 hours on transport or in transit.
Farmers must ensure calves offered for sale are:
- At least five days old (unless consigned direct to a calf rearer)
- Fit and healthy (see Caring for bobby calf welfare before and during transport)
- Have been adequately fed within six hours of transport
Transporters must record when calves are picked up and ensure calves are:
- Fit for the journey (see Caring for bobby calf welfare before and during transport)
- Protected from cold and heat
- Handled appropriately during loading and unloading
- Transported for the minimum time possible with no more than 12 hours spent on transport.
Saleyard operators, buyers, agents and processors must ensure calves are:
- Handled appropriately
- Protected from cold and heat,
- Given access to water
- Taken care of in cases of delay or emergency.
Caring for bobby calf welfare before and during transportPDF, 1000.34 KB
Is the animal fit to load factsheetPDF, 4.21 MB
Care of bobby calves on-farm
Caring for animals is an important part of everyday life on a dairy farm. Farmers work to provide calves with a safe, healthy environment for the whole of their lives, even after they leave the farm.
Dairy farmers ensure their calves are fit and healthy by:
- Removing calves from their dams within 12 hours of birth to minimise risk of disease transfer and lower the stress for both cow and calf
- Providing calves with an adequate amount of good quality colostrum before they are 12 hours old
- Providing calves with clean, draught-free shelter
- Handling all calves with care
The dairy industry regularly undertakes farmer surveys to measure the adoption of on-farm practices which ensures calves are fit for transport and sale.
Bobby calf fit for transport factsheetPDF, 271.36 KB
Dairy welfare we care animal husbandry survey 2016PDF, 2.88 MB
Humane killing and disposal of sick or injured cattlePDF, 554 KB
Transporting bobby calves factsheetPDF, 410.74 KB
Dairy beef production
The Australian dairy industry supports the development of more profitable and sustainable pathways for surplus dairy calves. The production of beef and veal from dairy breeds requires specialist production systems and produces an animal with different carcass specifications to traditional beef breeds.