Caring for calves new regulations

1 March 2017

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Over the past eight months, farmers have had to familiarise themselves with new regulations around the care and handling of young calves. Seven new regulations were announced by Minister Nathan Guy in 2016, three of those come into effect this year.

Now is a good time to make sure you familiarise yourself with these changes, and how they may affect you and your current farm practices or facilities.

The latest regulations aim to ensure that the welfare of calves are protected prior to being transported off farm. The health and wellbeing of drivers and transport operators has also been a key consideration with the introduction of new requirements around use of loading facilities.

From August 1, calves awaiting collection by transporter must have access to shelter that is clean, dry, suitably ventilated and provides protection from the weather. Calves must also be able to walk safely onto the truck, either via a ramp, a raised holding/loading pen or other suitable system.

There are several options to consider. These include, adapting your existing facilities, buying a ready-made solution, or building new. You might do the work yourself, or pay a contractor. Whatever approach you take, do your research to make sure the facilities work for your farm, as what works well for others, may not necessarily be the best for your situation.

Before you make any changes to your facilities, talk to your transporter and if necessary arrange a site visit to help ensure what you are proposing to do is fit-for-purpose and in an easily accessed location. It’s important to get it right from the beginning to avoid expense later down the track, and make sure it works well for you, your transporter, and your calves.

Some key factors to consider include, making sure the track to the loading facility is no less than 4m wide, clear of any overhead obstructions, and that it is easy for the truck to reverse up.

It is also a requirement under your dairy company supply agreement that your loading facilities must not be on, or adjacent to the roadside, as it is potentially hazardous to truck drivers, staff, and other road-users.

Make sure your team are aware of the eight criteria bobby calves must meet before they are put in the holding pen for transport.

DairyNZ has a handy fit for transport poster which acts as a good visual reminder to make sure all calves to go off farm meet these requirements.

The eight criteria include the calves being at least four days old, able to stand and walk, have a dry navel, ears up and bright eyes, no scours, correct ear tag, firm hooves, and a full stomach.

Since February 1, it is now regulation that bobby calves are slaughtered within 24 hours of their last feed.

Although the welfare of calves whilst on farm, is the farmer's responsibility, the maximum time off feed requirement remains with the meat processor.

This regulation applies to all processors and each are likely to have different requirements and may offer different pick up options.

This will require processors to work closely with farmers and transporters to monitor last feed on farm, pick-up and transport times.

Meat processors have indicated they intend to make changes to bobby calf supply contracts. It’s important that you read your bobby calf agreement/s to ensure you understand your obligations.

To enable the processor to meet their requirements, it is expected that suppliers will be required to complete a declaration for each consignment of calves.

Your meat processor may require you to commit to feed your calves within an agreed timeframe ahead of a scheduled pick-up time, for the duration of the season.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your supply contract and your ability to meet processor requirements you should contact your processor directly.

Once you have your agreement, it is important that anyone responsible for bobby calf selection and preparation for transport are aware of these requirements.

Keeping the lines of communication open between the farmer and transport will be key to meeting this regulation.

A useful tool which can help farmers monitor on-farm performance and communicate with transporters is the DairyNZ bobby calf collection sign.

The reusable plastic sign has a checklist for farmers to tick-off with a whiteboard marker to let the transporter know the calves are fit for transport and provide details including the number of calves for pick-up and the time of their last feed. The other side of the sign is for transporters to tick-off any reasons why calves were left behind.

For all farmers, it is important to understand your obligations, for more information on the new bobby calf regulations visit

For more around the new bobby calf regulations, and the requirements around loading facilities, contact your local Fonterra Farm Source team.

Article supplied by DairyNZ