The cows whose milk we humans drink had their calves taken away from them. The male "bobby calves" are unwanted by dairies. The RSPCA estimates that there are 600,000 Bobby calves born per annum in Victoria. Many are induced prematurely in order to minimise disruption of milking schedules for human convenience. They are usually dragged screaming from their mothers when they are little more than a day old, fed milk from a bucket, and prepared for slaughter. In a new low ('standard') Department of Primary Industries wants to increase time calves may be starved prior to slaughter from 24 hours to 30 in all states and territories. The study they have commissioned does not support their aim - thank heavens. (RSPCA article on bobby calves is at the end of this article.)
To save money, the powers that be want to stop feeding bobby calves 30 hours before slaughter. They have been ripped from their mothers, thrown about in transports and now permission is sought to starve them for longer. What sort of society have we become?
What the study says
The study (of which the Executive Summary is published below) suggests that 30 hours would be very unadvisable and suggests that the maximum time without milk for calves should not be more than 24 hours. Closer reading indicates that stress rapidly increases in severity 18 hours after the last meal, as measured by glucose levels. Of course any new-born mammal senses it will die without its mother and ordinary observations show that separation causes extreme suffering immediately as it occurs.
Of course many of us eat beef and veal. We need therefore to take responsibility for the conditions in which these foods are obtained. They involve killing, and that killing, in our society, is carried out very distantly from most of us. Have a look at the film and educate yourself. Then hopefully you will make a submission to improve standards rather than cause even greater suffering. You may even decide not to use dairy or beef products anymore. Its a sure thing that better standards will make people less inclined to eschew meat or milk.
Where to make submissions before 3 February 2011
Submissions are due by 3 feb. 2011 at http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/australian-animal-welfare-standards-and-guidelines/land-transport/bobby-calf-time-off-feed-standard.cfm
1. The proposed standard amendment to SB4.5 B4 Specific requirements for the land transport of cattle (175 KB) for a maximum of 30 hours without a liquid feed from the time of last feeding to the next feed or slaughter of the calf, contributes to the necessary specifications for protecting the welfare of calves while being transported. Source: http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/australian-animal-welfare-standards-and-guidelines/land-transport/bobby-calf-time-off-feed-standard.cfm
In fact, the study used to inform the proposed amendment strongly counsels against more than 24 hours without food.
These calves are crying for their mothers and their mothers would be crying for them. A very sad industry. Cows are not the stupid and insensitive animals many of us have been educated to believe. They are creatures placed in very restricted environments who are not able to organise, express themselves or flee.
The video describes the life of a recently born calf destined to be killed for veal over a timeline for the 30 hours. Feel free to send to anyone. It might help with your submissions. Have a look. It is not sensational and it won't make you faint. It will just make you feel a bit like doing something to make these calves last day and a half better, if you hadn't realised how poorly these animals are treated.
Official Calf study for this proposed standard makes gruesome reading
Cited below is the Executive Summary from the "Final Report Determining a suitable time off feed for bobby calf transport under Australian conditions, Dairy Australia Project No. TIG 124, involving Andrew Fisher, Peter Mansell, Bronwyn Stevens, Melanie Conley, Ellen Jongman, Mariko Lauber & Sue Hides, dated May 2010, and provided by the Faculty of Veterinary Science University of Melbourne Victoria, Australia Victorian Department of Primary Industries at 600 Sneydes Road, Werribee Victoria, Australia Victorian Department of Primary Industries, 475 Mickleham Road, Attwood Victoria, Australia Victorian Department of Primary Industries, 1 Stratford Road, Maffra Victoria, Australia
Executive summary for calf study for Dept Primary Industries
"The recent development process for the Australian Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Animals: Land Transport of Livestock highlighted that the transport and management of bobby calves remains a contentious area. Debate has centred on determining a suitable maximum period that calves may be ‘off-feed’ during the transport process.
The objectives of this experiment were: 1) to determine the welfare and metabolic state of 5- to 10-day-old dairy calves in response to increasing time off feed- up to 30 hours, in conjunction with three transport scenarios; and 2) to use these results to provide objective scientific evidence, along with published information, to support the Australian development of an appropriate standard for maximum permissible time off feed for the bobby calf supply chain.
The study was conducted in three replicates over three consecutive weeks from late August to mid September on a commercial dairy farm in Gippsland, Victoria.
A total of 60, 5 to 10-day-old male dairy calves were utilized across four treatments (n = 15 per treatment): 1) Control- remain in situ without feed for 30 hrs; 2) No feed for 30 hrs including transport for 6 hrs to a new environment; 3) No feed for 30 hrs including transport for 12 hrs to a new environment; 4) No feed for 30 hrs including transport for 1 hr to a new environment, remaining for 6 hrs, then transport for 5 hrs to another new environment. These different treatments were designed to simulate the types of transport scenarios to which bobby calves are currently or likely to be subjected as part of the commercial industry.
The day before treatment, 20, 5- to 10-day-old male calves were randomly assigned to one of the four treatments (n=5) balanced for age. Prior to this calves had been managed by farm staff in accordance with standard farm practice. On the day of treatment, calves were offered their normal daily milk allocation of 5L at 0600h.
Because the national vendor declaration requirement is for calves to be fed within 6 hrs of transport, calves in treatments 2, 3 and 4 were loaded at 1200h and transported. A recognised calf transporter was commissioned to transport the calves in a standard commercial vehicle that is regularly used for transporting these animals. During transport, calves were on unbedded flooring and confined to one of the dividing pens on the truck at a stocking density of 0.3m2 per animal. The transport driver took a similar predetermined route on each of the 3 transport days returning to the farm at regular intervals to allow the calves to be checked.
Calves in treatment 4 were unloaded after 1 hr of transport into a temporary holding yard (1300h) with no water trough. Calves in treatment 2 were unloaded in the destination environment after 6 hr of transport (1800h). Calves in treatment 4 were reloaded after 6 hrs in the holding environment (1900h). Calves in treatments 3 and 4 were then unloaded in the destination environment at 2400h. All calves were allowed access to water from 2400h.
The study concluded after 30 hr of withdrawal at 1200h on the second day. At this point all calves in treatments 1 to 4 were fed milk and handed back to the farm to manage before they were transported to an abattoir for slaughter two days later.
3 Prior to treatment calves were fitted with behaviour loggers to measure standing, lying and walking behaviour. Calves were also fitted with rectal temperature loggers. Blood samples were collected by jugular venepuncture from all calves at the following time points: 0600h (Pre-feeding); 0900h (Post-feeding) ; 1200h (Pre-loading); 1800h ; 2100h;
2400h; 0600h; 1200h (immediately before re-feeding).
Blood samples were analysed to measure biochemical variables indicative of:
• metabolic state (glucose, 3-hydroxybutyrate, lactate)
• hydration (packed cell volume, total serum protein)
• colostrum feeding (gamma-glutamyl transferase)
• muscular exertion and bruising (creatine kinase)
Calves were weighed immediately prior to transport on the day of treatment (approximately 6 hours off feed) and at the conclusion of the study the following day at 30h off feed- this final weight was prior to the calves being re-fed.
Behaviour and temperature data did not reveal major effects. The blood results indicate that transport per se was not a significant additional impost on the animals in terms of the key variables indicating metabolic status and hydration. Muscle enzyme levels did increase somewhat in the 12-h transport group compared with the other groups. Most variation in blood variables measured was due to time off feed, rather than transport duration.
Hydration levels appear to be relatively unaffected by the time off feed. In terms of energy status, plasma glucose concentrations were the most altered variable. These increased after feeding, declined slowly for some hours, and then declined more steadily after about 18 h off feed. This pattern was relatively consistent between treatment groups. Mean glucose at 30 h was close to, but not below published reference values for dairy calves less that 2 weeks of age. However, a proportion of calves (~12%) were below the lower reference value at this time point, and this proportion was slightly greater than would be assumed by chance.
It is our conclusion that 30 h with good practice in other aspects of calf management and transport is defensible as an outer ‘legal’ limit for time off feed for bobby calves. It would appear that any extension of time off feed beyond 30 h would be decidedly unadvisable, and our results would not support such exemptions. Best practice management of transported calves would involve time off feed not longer than around 24 hrs."
Bobby Calves - notes from RSPCA Vic
[Source: RSPCA Victoria, "Bobby Calves":
"In order to produce milk cows have to give birth to a calf every year. Bobby calves are the unwanted male offspring born to dairy cows. Currently there are an estimated 600,000 Bobby calves born per annum in Victoria. Many calves are born prematurely after an induced birth as a way of keeping milking herds on a uniform milk production cycle. These male calves are usually separated from their mothers at a little more than a day old, and then fed milk from a bucket.
At around four days old these calves are then transported to an abattoir to be slaughtered for veal. Under the “National Bobby Calf Declaration” farmers must now sign a form stating that the calves they are selling are older than five days. However this is difficult to prove as the only currently-used measure to gauge the age of Bobby calves is the dryness of their umbilical cord. This measure has been found to be a poor indicator of age. A recent study found that if cord dryness was used to select calves for sale 86.4% of Friesian bull calves and 100% of cross- bred calves would be sold prior to their fifth day of life. (1)
A government-sponsored workshop to identify animal welfare issues within Animal Industries (2) determined that an “extremely important welfare issue” was the number of calves being loaded at three to five days of age. These calves are ill prepared to stand up to the rigours of transport, particularly as they are often transported at stocking densities that do not allow them to lie down. As farmers are not required to keep records that would enable individual calves to be identified and their date of birth proven (or if they have been induced) many calves are transported at only three days old.
According to the Code of Accepted Farming Practice for the Welfare of Cattle, calves can be transported for up to 10 hours and not fed for up to 24 hours prior to slaughter. Unfortunately even this low level of care cannot be enforced as this code of practice is only advisory in Victoria. Anecdotal reports suggest that many calves are transported for longer periods and remain unfed for up to 48 hours prior to slaughter. Holding facilities for calves are often open yards with concrete or dirt floors with no bedding or shelter (3). Whilst the Code of Practice states that electric goads should not be used on Bobby calves, these devices are routinely used by handlers, often in front of Government Audit teams (3).
RSPCA Victoria wants legislated codes of practice for animal welfare in Victoria to allow prosecution/penalties for non-compliance. Production animal Codes of Practice primarily define only the most limited levels of animal welfare and even these do not have to be complied with. This is the only way that the welfare of low dollar value animals such as Bobby calves can be protected.
Other issues that RSPCA wants to be addressed:
The practise of calve induction should be replaced by better on farm herd management. Induced
calves should not be sold and must be humanely euthanased on farm.
Bobby calves must be slaughtered within 10 hours of farm gate.
Calves should be at least 10 days old prior to loading. Farmers should be required to keep
appropriate records to ensure that under-aged calves are not sold.
Holding facilities for Bobby calves must have dry, non-slip surfaces and be well sheltered at all times.
Drying times of umbilical cord of dairy calves (Australian Veterinary Journal 83 (6) 2005 Sue J Hides.
A Workshop to Identify Animal Welfare Issues within Animal Industries 2002- Animal Welfare Centre.
The Jack Green Fellowship to study and document guidelines and technologies for the management of
surplus dairy calves which could be adapted by the Victorian dairy industry to enhance Bobby calf welfare
and improve the quality and yield of Bobby calf veal - Sue Hides 1999."