Dairy Australia - Dairy information for Australian Dairy Farmers and the industry

Primary content

Learn about topics to help you manage calf welfare, including the correct method for disbudding calves, managing disease, injury and general good practices for calf welfare.

Managing calf welfare

All calves are essential for dairy farming and must be managed from birth to lessen the risk of:

  • disease,
  • discomfort to the calf, and
  • injury to animals and operator.

Dairy Australia is working across the supply chain from farm to processor to ensure that calves are managed to meet agreed industry practices and standards.

Good welfare practices for calves - more information:

  • Disbudding calves

    Disbudding calves

    Disbudding calves is the most common practice of horn removal on Australian dairy farms.

    It is the least painful approach when done correctly. When compared to de-horning older cattle it is less likely to cause infection.

    Removal of the horns of cattle is a common welfare procedure designed to lessen injury to the animals, and to handlers of dairy stock.


    Dairy Australia has been working with farmers to encourage the disbudding of calves at 6 - 8 weeks of age rather than de-horning cattle at an older age. Survey results report that since the Nation Dairy Industry Animal Welfare Strategy has been in place:

    1. Most dairy farmers that disbud their calves do so at the correct age, using proper equipment.

    2. Farms disbudding calves (rather than de-horning cows) increased from 77% to 94% between 2005 and 2014.

    The following videos show how to disbud calves at less than 2 months of age using the hot iron cautery technique with pain relief:

    Disbudding of dairy calves part 1 - setting up

    Disbudding of dairy calves part 2 - administration of pain relief

    Disbudding of dairy calves part 3 - thermal disbudding 


  • Rearing healthy calves fact sheets and calculators

    Rearing healthy calves fact sheets and calculators

    Fact sheets

    The following fact sheets are designed to supplement the information contained in the Rearing Healthy Calves manual.

    Calf management calculators

    These tools require Microsoft Excel 2007 to be loaded on the computer.

  • Rearing healthy calves

    Rearing healthy calves manual

    Rearing Healthy Calves manual 2nd edition (2017) (PDF, 11MB)

    This is the new edition of our practical guide to all aspects of calf management from birth to weaning - A4 book 182pp

    Order your free manual here.

Major Initiatives

Focus Farms

Dairy Australia has established a network of Focus Farms to support farmer decision making.


DairyBase is a web-based tool that enables dairy farmers to measure and compare their farm business performance over time.

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