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Learn about caring for bobby calves on farm and during transport.

Managing bobby calf welfare

Care of calves is a high priority for the dairy industry. Animal welfare requirements apply to all calves born on farm, whether they are destined for the milking herd, reared elsewhere for beef, or marketed as bobby calves.

Refer to the Rearing Healthy Calves manual for information on industry agreed calf management practices.

A bobby calf is:

  • Less than 30 days old.
  • Weighs less than 80kg live weight.
  • Is usually a dairy breed or cross.
  • Is sold for meat or reared for dairy-beef.

Around 400,000 bobby calves are processed each year in Australia supporting local jobs and providing a valuable protein resource.

The dairy industry is working with calf buyers and transporters, saleyard agents and abattoir workers to ensure that everyone involved in the management, transportation, handling and marketing of bobby calves understands their responsibilities to protect calf health and welfare and meets the agreed standards.

The dairy industry is investing the welfare of bobby calves through:

  • Training to ensure farmers are aware of their responsibilities for the rearing and housing of all calves and guaranteeing fitness for sale.
  • A joint project with processors and saleyards to train people that manage and handle bobby calves.
  • A bobby calf traceability trial to verify whole-of-supply-chain responsibility for bobby calves.

More information

Calf management across the supply chain (PDF, 1055KB)

This Report summarises significant achievements in addressing two principal issues of critical importance to the dairy industry and the wider community. They are:

  • Everybody understands the calf supply chain commitment to responsible handling and care of calves.
  • The calf supply chain maintains an excellent reputation for production of veal that meets required food industry standards.

Dairy beef calves - what makes a good one? (PDF, 146KB)

Dairy beef producers source excess calves from dairy farms to rear and grow for specialised lean beef markets.
Rearing calves is an expensive business, with at least a third of the total cost incurred during the first 12 weeks of a calf's life. It is, therefore, very important that buyers select and purchase strong, bright, healthy calves from a clean, disease-free environment and that calves are carefully selected to meet the specifications of the target market.

This report helps you with selecting dairy beef calves with the key benefits being:

  • Minimise operating costs and maximise productivity by establishing a reliable source of dairy beef calves.
  • Meet the specifications of your target market by choosing the right calves.
  • Avoid potential problems and disease risks for your calf rearing facility by knowing which calves to reject.
  • Copy Link Bobby calves for sale sign

    Bobby calves for sale sign

    It is now a legal requirement for farmers to clearly communicate to transporters that bobby calves offered for sale are fit for transport.

    To help with this process, Dairy Australia has developed a sign for the calf pen.

    To use this sign, just fill in the time that you fed the calves and the latest time for pick up (within 6 hours of last feeding).
    Provide your phone number in case the calf buyer needs to contact you.

    To order a free Bobby Calves for sale sign please contact enquiries@dairyaustralia.com.au or call (03) 9694 3777.

  • Copy Link Care of bobby calves during transport

    Care of bobby calves during transport

    All people responsible for the handling and transport of bobby calves including farmers, calf buyers, agents, saleyards, transporters and meat processors must follow the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for Land Transport of Livestock.

    Developed in consultation with industry, animal welfare groups, governments and the public, and incorporated in State legislation, the new standards require all those involved in the transportation of bobby calves to be responsible for the welfare of the animals under their care. Everyone who handles calves must treat them with care and patience at all times and protect them from cold and heat. Calves must not be moved with dogs or electric prodders.

    As an official decision regarding the maximum "time-off-feed" for bobby calves from farm to processing is still pending, an industry standard for the transport of calves has been developed by representatives from the dairy industry, transporters, calf buyers and meat processors.

    The standard requires that calves must be slaughtered or fed within 30 hours from the last feed.

    The industry standard complements existing national standards that limit transport time and require calves to be fed within 6 hours before leaving the farm.

    Calves must be delivered in less than 18 hours from last feed and spend no more than 12 hours on transport/in transit.

    Farmers must ensure calves offered for sale are:

    • at least five days old (unless consigned direct to a calf rearer),
    • fit and healthy (see Caring for bobby calf welfare before and during transport), and
    • have been adequately fed within six hours of transport.

    Transporters must record when calves are picked up and ensure calves are:

    • fit for the journey (see Caring for bobby calf welfare before and during transport),
    • protected from cold and heat,
    • handled appropriately during loading and unloading, and
    • transported for the minimum time possible with no more than 12 hours spent on transport.

    Saleyard operators, buyers, agents and processors must ensure calves are:

    • handled appropriately,
    • protected from cold and heat,
    • given access to water, and
    • taken care of in cases of delay or emergency.

    More information

    Caring for bobby calf welfare before and during transport (PDF, 360KB)

    Australian Dairy Farmers and Dairy Australia have produced this pocket guide to ensure that all people that work with calves are aware of their responsibilities.

    Bobby calf transport standards and guidelines (Agriculture Victoria website)

    More detailed information on the selection, preparation and transport of bobby calves.

    A national guide to the selection of animals fit to transport - Revised edition 2012

    For a more general guide to the selection of animals for transport refer this guide.

  • Copy Link Care of bobby calves on farm

    Care of bobby calves on-farm

    Caring for animals is an important part of everyday life on a dairy farm. Farmers work to provide calves with a safe, healthy environment for the whole of their lives, even after they leave the farm.

    Hear from the people who work every day with calves

    Dairy farmers ensure that their calves are fit and healthy by:

    • removing calves from their dams within 12 hours of birth to minimise risk of disease transfer (see: 3-Step Calf Plan) and lower the stress for both cow and calf;
    • providing calves with an adequate amount of good quality colostrum before they are 12 hours old;
    • providing calves with clean, draught-free shelter; and
    • handling all calves with care.

    The dairy industry regularly undertakes farmer surveys to measure the adoption of on-farm practices that ensure calves are fit for transport and sale.

    More information

    Handling Bobby Calves – Fit for transport (PDF, 189KB)

    When moving calves, it is important you look after yourself as well as looking after the calf. Dairy Australia has developed a fact sheet to highlight some important areas to consider when handling calves, as well as when selling calves off farm.

    Dairy welfare we care Animal husbandry survey 2014 (PDF, 957KB)

    This survey found that:

    • Most dairy farmers are making sure that calves destined for sale receive colostrum (71%).
    • Nearly all farms have a system to confirm that calves are fed within 6 hours of pick up (97%).
    • The majority of calves are fed within 2 hours of the expected time of pick up (63%).

    Humane killing and disposal of sick or injured cattle (PDF, 1KB)

    Sometimes calves have to be put down due to disease or injury. Dairy Australia has developed a fact sheet that outlines best practices for euthanasia of livestock. Accredited training on Euthanasia of Livestock is also being provided to farmers through registered training organisations. Call your Regional Development Program for more information.


Our Farm, Our Plan

Our Farm, Our Plan is a new program designed to equip farmers to clarify their long term goals, identify the actions needed and to manage uncertainty and risk.

Hay and grain reports

The hay and grain report is commissioned by Dairy Australia to provide an independent and timely assessment of hay and grain markets in each dairying region. The report is updated 40 weeks per year.

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