SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Bobby / Young Calves from the Dairy Industry

SPCA advocates that all calves are reared with their mothers on pasture and in stable, long-term social groups.

SPCA opposes the use of individual crates or the individual penning or tethering of calves.

If calves cannot be reared with their mother, then they should be cared for in stable groups. Calves must be provided with adequate shade, shelter, and lying areas that must be well-drained, clean, and dry with suitable bedding, and large enough to allow all calves to assume comfortable lying positions. If calves are housed indoors, buildings must have adequate ventilation and protection from extreme hot and cold temperatures to ensure the health and comfort of the calf.

SPCA opposes the routine killing of young calves in the dairy industry.

SPCA supports schemes that demonstrate the economic viability and sustainability of producing high welfare veal and beef from calves who would usually be slaughtered as excess stock. Our organisation supports the use of dual-purpose cattle or balanced dairy breeds and the appropriate care of male calves so that they are humanely reared to attain a market value in the beef supply chain. If dairy cattle are farmed, SPCA supports the use of sexed semen to reduce the wastage of dairy (male and female) calves being born. Our organisation advocates that the use of dual-purpose cattle and/or sexed semen can significantly reduce the number of unwanted calves being born.

If calves are born who are not going to be reared for meat and are going to be killed as excess stock, then SPCA supports humane killing on-farm in a timely manner by personnel that are trained and competent in appropriate, humane killing techniques. This prevents the subjection of calves to the stress and potential harm of loading, transportation, unloading, lairage, and killing at a slaughterhouse.

SPCA supports the farming of naturally polled cattle, achieved either through selectively breeding or genetic technology, as this would eliminate the need to disbud cattle. Where horns need to be prevented from growing, SPCA advocates that animals be disbudded rather than dehorned.

SPCA advocates that disbudding should be classified as a “controlled” surgical procedure, meaning that it can be performed by the animal’s owner or employee of the owner as long as they have veterinary approval to perform that procedure on that species of animal. If disbudding does take place it must be carried out by a skilled and competent operator with adequate and appropriate medical care prior to, during, and after the procedure, including anaesthesia and analgesia.

(see Disbudding and Dehorning of Cattle and Goats for more details)

SPCA advocates for all calves to be provided an appropriate diet for their age and stage of development.

SPCA advocates that all calves must receive a diet which allows normal physiological development and good health. Calves must be offered sufficient quantities of milk in multiple meals to prevent hunger and abnormal behaviours. Our organisation opposes the practice of feeding low fibre and low iron diets to animals to keep their flesh pale.

SPCA advocates that extra care should be taken when deciding whether to transport calves. SPCA opposes the long-duration transport or export of calves.

Calves should not be transported before 10 days of age. However, SPCA acknowledges that the current law allows for 96 hours. Anyone responsible for young calves and their transport must ensure that they are fit for travel so that they are able to withstand the journey. Calves must be fed prior to transport and are provided with bedding during transport to maintain comfort. If calves are to be transported they must be slaughtered or arrive at their destination within 8 hours from their last feed.

(see Transport for more details)

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