The calving season for dairy farmers is now in full swing and improvements in calf welfare have been noted across the bobby calf supply chain.
A suite of welfare actions have been implemented since the end of the 2015 as part of an accelerated work programme focused on further improving the standard of care for bobby calves, including new regulations which have been in place since 1 August.
"Everyone across the supply chain has a role to play when it comes to the welfare of bobby calves. What we have seen and heard so far is promising and a majority of people are following the rules, but we have also noticed some people still need to change their practices to ensure all regulations are met," says MPI's Director Verification Services, Chris Kebbell.
"We'd like to acknowledge the majority of farmers, transporters and processors who have always cared for young calves and are meeting the regulations with ease, but we remind the minority that they have an obligation to care for calves and they face infringement fines or prosecutions if they don't."
The four regulations introduced this season include fitness for transport requirements, a maximum transport duration of 12 hours, the prohibition on killing calves by blunt force to the head and the prohibition of transporting calves by sea across the Cook Strait. These regulations provide MPI with additional tools to respond to those who are not meeting their obligations for the welfare of calves.
"The key area we have noted that could be improved by the minority is ensuring calves are fit for transport. Farmers should not rely on transporters to make the decision on fitness for transport as farmers are in the best position to know the animals. That means making sure calves are at least four days old, are properly fed to manage the stress of transport, free from signs of injury or disease, are alert and have firm hooves and dry navels.
"We'd also encourage farmers, transporters and processors to continue to strengthen communication with each other to ensure their systems do not compromise the welfare of calves. This means that only healthy, well fed calves are selected for transport, that the collection and transport process minimises the stress on calves and that transport journeys are planned and kept as short as possible," adds Kebbell.
Find out more about the regulations
If you are concerned about the welfare of any animals, contact us to report it confidentially: call 0800 00 83 33 and select option 1.