Bobby calf welfare: everyone has a role to play

Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

As the dairy industry’s spring calving kicks off, the Bobby Calf Action Group (BCAG) is reminding everyone who handles calves of the important role they have to play.

“The rubber hits the road now, it’s up to everyone across the supply chain to meet the required standards of care for bobby calves this season,” says Ministry for Primary Industries Deputy Director General, Scott Gallacher.

Eight organisations make up the BCAG which was formed at the end of 2015 to accelerate and add to existing measures aimed at ensuring everyone involved with bobby calves applies best practice in their handling and care.

The BCAG is made up of DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Meat Industry Association, Federated Farmers, New Zealand Petfood Manufacturers Association, Road Transport Forum, New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Mr Gallacher says farmers, industry and government have been working for some years on lifting the standard of care for bobby calves.

“We would like to acknowledge the majority of farmers, transporters and processors who care for and handle bobby calves appropriately. But we urge those who need to make improvements to step up this season and demonstrate that as an industry, we care about bobby calf welfare.”

The BCAG organisations are ready to work together should any issues arise this season.

“We encourage people who are aware of bobby calf welfare issues to call the MPI hotline 0800 00 83 33 so we can investigate.”

Actions and improvements delivered by the BCAG include:

  • DairyNZ has led consultation with farmers to develop practical solutions such as updated bobby calf handling guidance resources. This has been supported by online resources and 'fit for transport' education posters distributed to all dairy farmers.

  • DairyNZ, the New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Society of Dairy Cattle Veterinarians have worked together to deliver more than 60 training workshops and programmes to dairy farmers throughout New Zealand. The bobby calf workshops cover handling skills, staff training, shelter, feed, engagement with transport operators and loading facilities.

  • The Petfood Manufacturers Association has updated its code of practice for managing bobby calves and established a verification regime to ensure requirements are met. They've also put in place a voluntary agreement for its members to install CCTV to monitor the unloading and slaughter of bobby calves at all petfood premises and developed a pre-season training programme for processing staff.

  • The Meat Industry Association is working closely with industry partners to ensure consistent messaging for farmer suppliers and transporters to improve animal welfare outcomes. In addition we are working closely with MPI to better understand the causal factors across the value chain that are influencing animal welfare in order to ensure continuous  improvement.

  • Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand member companies have reviewed their individual terms and conditions of supply for farmers with respect to animal welfare, and collaborated with other organisations to support the flow of information to farmers for calving.

  • The Road Transport Forum has reviewed the NZ Livestock Transport Assurance Programme to ensure it remains fit for purpose, has engaged constructively through the Bobby Calf Action Group to improve calf holding and loading facilities where necessary and has communicated the requirements of the new regulations to the road transport sector.

  • Federated Farmers is communicating with members about new rules so requirements are clear.

In addition to supporting the development of the new regulations for young calves, MPI:

  • has worked with other Bobby Calf Action Group members to develop a process map of the bobby calf system to help guide welfare enhancement programmes

  • has worked with DairyNZ and the Meat Industry Association to develop a number of resources to inform farmers, transporters and processors of the new enforcement regime, including the development of a whiteboard for use in the calf pen (these are available through DairyNZ or

  • has invested $250,000 on a comprehensive, research project of dairy calf welfare across the supply chain to help provide evidence-based decisions about bobby calf management

  • will audit dairy farms as part of its on-farm verification programme for 2016.  These audits will include familiarising farmers with their legal responsibilities around animal welfare

  • has initiated an advertising programme to encourage people who are aware of bobby calf welfare issues to report it to MPI's hotline – 0800 00 83 33. 

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