Bobby calf welfare

Find out what you need to do to ensure their welfare, the rules you must follow, and what we've learned from research.

Improving the welfare of bobby calves

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and industry groups have been working to improve the welfare of bobby calves that are being transported for processing. We’ve been working with suppliers, farmers, transporters, and processors.

Most people are meeting the welfare requirements. But some workers still aren’t doing what they need to, and everyone across the supply chain needs to play their part. Our work has a big focus on targeting people who aren't meeting the minimum standards.

In 2016, we ran a public consultation on proposed animal welfare regulations. The first regulations for young calves came into force on 1 August 2016, with more in February and August 2017. We also did research to better understand the bobby calf welfare situation in New Zealand.

2016 consultation on proposed animal welfare regulations

Summaries of animal welfare regulations

Checklist for transporting calves

Suppliers must ensure calves being transported:

  • are strong enough to withstand the stress of travel
  • are healthy and free of disease, deformity, blindness, or any disability
  • have been adequately fed on milk or colostrum
  • are alert and able to rise from a lying position and, once up, can move freely. They must not be listless and unable to protect themselves from trampling and being injured by other calves
  • have hooves that are firm and worn flat – not bulbous with soft unworn tissue
  • have a navel cord that is wrinkled, withered, and shrivelled – not pink or red coloured, raw or fleshy
  • are at least 4 days old.

This checklist is based on the minimum welfare standards.

Know the codes of welfare

Suppliers, farmers, transporters, and processors should be familiar with the codes of welfare for:

Research into causes of bobby calf deaths

In 2018, we looked at reasons for mortality and morbidity in dairy calves (bobby calves) for slaughter, and potential new welfare indicators. Results were based on observations of calves and information from questionnaires given to farmers, transport operators, and slaughter plant personnel. The research links calf mortality to on-farm management practices, transport, time in calving season, and slaughter schedules. The results will be used to further improve calf welfare.

Bobby calf welfare across the supply chain – Final report for year 1 [PDF, 2.1 MB]

Find out more

Animal Welfare (Calves) Regulations 2016 – NZ Legislation

Mortality rates in young calves in the 2018 and 2019 spring calving seasons [PDF, 1.2 MB]

Mortality rates in young calves in the 2017 spring calving season [PDF, 742 KB]

Mortality rates in bobby calves 2008 to 2016 [PDF, 513 KB]

Who to contact

If you have questions about the welfare of bobby calves, email

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