Bobby Calves - What do you do with them?

What farmer would knowingly flout the law, potentially putting themselves (or their farming company) at risk of fines from $5,000 to $25,000 for failing to adhere to the new Young Calf Regulations?

This could be the reality for those farmers who have not introduced new processes for handling their bobby calves, as a result of a raft of new regulations announced this year.

The remainder of the regulations (Animal Welfare (Calves) Regulations 2016) went live on 1 August, prescribing the way in which farmers need to provide shelter for their calves before and during transportation and at points of sale or slaughter.  Farmers now also have to provide loading facilities for the calf to walk onto or off the stock transport vehicle on its own accord, minimising the risk of the calf slipping and injuring itself, falling off the facilities, or becoming otherwise injured or distressed.

All this in addition to the first stage of regulations that came into force in 2016, and February 2017, (about how bobby calves are slaughtered, feed requirements during transportation, and time spent in holding pens before slaughter). 

Will these new regulations generate positive change, or are they another example of reactionary regulation to an over inflated problem?

Here are the problems with the new Regulations.

Some farmers resent having to make changes to a system that has worked well for them for many years, where they have taken good care regarding the welfare of their bobby calves.  Farmers believe Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI)’s “knee jerk” reaction to a small group of farmers and transporters who inhumanely handled bobby calves (outed by welfare organisation SAFE, which received significant media coverage) is over the top. 

While most farmers share their horror at the way in which these bobby calves were treated, they feel unfairly targeted and the reaction unreasonable. 

Anecdotally, some farmers feel that insufficient consultation took place on the introduction of these rules, are struggling with the practicality of implementing these new facilities and processes and that the timeframe is too short for implementation. Criteria around holding pen height, floor area and proximity to milking facilities seem onerous for some and in many ways impractical – it can’t be a “one-size fits all” design. 

How do you coax a bobby calf to walk up a ramp when it refuses to budge? Farmers, like the rest of the working population, are time poor and adherence to these rules could prove arduous, costly and may well end up with the farmer suffering back or neck injuries.  A health and safety risk waiting to happen!

Even if farmers comply with the rules, how can they be sure that the processing company and transporters are also playing ball?  If any part of the process is found wanting, would this result in a time-consuming investigation by MPI to establish where these requirements have not been met, or will they take a more pragmatic approach to this matter?

Watch this space.

The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document. 

If you would like more information on any of the topics in this document, please contact your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser. 

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Diana Koorts