News & Advice

Ali Cullum, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets

Most farms have now finished calving replacements. So, what happens to the remaining calves that are born? Many of these will be transported off the farm, either to a private buyer, to the sale yards or to slaughter as bobbies. Young calves on a mainly milk diet are like human babies, they are 100% reliant on us, their care givers, to provide them with the necessities of life: food, water, shelter, ability to display normal behaviour, freedom from fear, distress, discomfort and disease. It is our responsibility to make sure they are fit for transport, and that, that transport is appropriate for them. If we were sending our own young children out on a day trip, we would make sure they were fit to go, had enough to eat and drink, and also suitable clothes for the day. Calves are no different, so we need first to make sure they are healthy and strong. This means feeding them a full feed of milk within 2 hours of departing from the farm, and making sure they are not suffering from scours or other illness. Under current legislation they may have a journey of up to 24 hours before they legally have to be fed again. The sale yard and slaughterhouse holding areas are often cold and uncomfortable (concrete), so the calves need to have plenty of energy on board to withstand the conditions. Unlike our children, we cannot give the calves a snack box to open up halfway through the morning, so “a good breakfast” before departure is vital! Ask your buyer how far they will be travelling, and when they will be slaughtered/sold. There are often alternatives which may mean a shorter journey with better outcomes for the calves. These calves are a dairy farm by-product, but they are our responsibility. Apply the “Human Baby Test” if you would not do it to your own baby, then you should not do it to a baby calf! 

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