Saturday, 16 July 2016 15:30

Bobby calves deserve better

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Treatment of bobby calves must improve, says MPI. Treatment of bobby calves must improve, says MPI.

New regulations to strengthen the law on the management and treatment of bobby calves were announced last month by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

They span the whole supply chain and will go to the cabinet for final approval. The first will then be enforced this calving season, as follows:

• Young calves must be at least four days of age and physically fit before trucking for sale or slaughter.

• Journey times must not exceed 12 hours for young calves being trucked for sale or slaughter.

• No shipping young calves across Cook Strait.

• No killing of any calves by use of 'blunt force trauma' (blows to the head) except in an emergency.

MPI says most farmers already meet these regulations with good processes and practices that mostly match the existing minimum standards.

Three more regulations will be introduced next year, giving farmers time to make any changes necessary. These include:

• Proposed February 2017: young calves must be fed at least once in the 24 hours prior to slaughter.

• Proposed August 2017: suitable shelter must be provided for young calves before and during trucking and at points of sale or slaughter.

• Proposed August 2017: loading and unloading facilities must be provided and used when young calves are trucked for sale and slaughter.

The regulations follow two months of public consultation by MPI in a wide-ranging effort by farmers, industry and government to raise bobby calf welfare.

Eight organisations formed the Bobby Calf Action Group at the end of 2015 to accelerate and add to existing measures to ensure everyone involved with bobby calves applies best practice in their handling and care.

The group includes DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of NZ, Meat Industry Association, Federated Farmers, NZ Petfood Manufacturers Association, Road Transport Forum, NZ Veterinary Association and MPI.

DairyNZ is making sure farmers are supported in making any changes on farm by working with others in the supply chain, helping farmers to make sure calves are fit for trucking and ensuring farmers have suitable facilities for loading.

Equal treatment

On the farm bobby calves must be given the same degree of care as every other calf.

• Colostrum: bobby calves must be fed colostrum (2-4 L/calf) within the first 24 hours of life, preferably within six hours. To aid local immunity, colostrum should be fed to them twice daily for the first four days of life.

• Handling: handle calves gently and with care at all times.

• Weather protection: bobby calves must be protected from extremes of weather, especially wind, rain, cold and heat. They should be moved to a sheltered, draught-free calf shed as soon as practicable after birth.

• Housing: a comfortable lying area that is well drained, covered with comfortable material and free from unpleasant odour should be provided for calves. Exposed concrete and bare earth are not acceptable. There should be no hazards likely to cause injury to the animals, e.g. sharp objects, slippery floors.

• Water: calves must have free access to clean drinking water at all times.

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