Australia’s beef industry confronts dairy farmers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th April 2017

At a time when beef prices are at record-high levels and dairy producers remain under pressure, a war has blown up on what to do with ‘bobby calves’ born on dairy farms.

Until now, the male calves born on a dairy farm (known as ‘bobby calves’) are usually sent off at five-days-old for slaughter.

Of course only females can be retained and impregnated to give birth and lactate and thereby to produce milk for human consumption. Regrettably, the bobby calves have been viewed by most dairy farmers as the unfortunate unwanted bi-product, too costly to feed beyond the legislated minimum 5-day holding period.

Veal buyers want older and bigger vealers that fetch higher prices. Veal is used for schnitzel and other meat meals but has also increasingly been replaced by filleted chicken.

However, many dairy farmers do not want to change the current practice or bear the additional cost of keeping the calves longer.

Is the consumption of red meat from grown out male calves strong enough to warrant the market risks for financially-stressed dairy farmers?

The meat industry insists that there are commercial opportunities to develop a new market for meat of bigger animals grown out of the bobby calves, but the question is: Who should be investing the time and money into doing this?

Debate over bobby calves was first started last week when it was reported that The Victoria Farmers Federation (VFF) Livestock Group wanted bobby calves sale practices to change.

The Victoria Farmers Federation Livestock Group has since released a statement saying that it does not advocate a ban on the slaughter of bobby calves.

“The Victorian Farmers Federation recognises that animal welfare is a priority for all farmers and supports best practice measures across all agricultural industries,” the Victorian Farmers Federation said in a statement.

“The Victorian Farmers Federation will continue to work across commodities to ensure Victorian farmers maintain their leadership in animal welfare. The Victorian Farmers Federation continues to have discussions around advancing the livestock and dairy industries,” the Victorian Farmers Federation said.

It is expected the topic will be discussed at a Victorian Farmers Federation’s meeting to be held Thursday 20 April 2017.


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