IFA National Dairy Committee Chair Stephen Arthur said that much more discussion is needed before any changes are made to calf regulations.
“A number of options were tabled by DAFM at the latest Calf Stakeholder Forum held last Friday relating to the movement of calves. Many of these proposals were not discussed at any significant length and absolutely no timeframe or specific proposals relating to increasing minimum movement age were agreed,” he said.
“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that calf welfare is optimised and any measures or proposals which will further strengthen this require strong consideration. However, many of the proposals suggested by DAFM simply will not deliver this but instead will place needless additional costs on farmers,” Stephen Arthur said.
Of particular concern was the proposal tabled by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and the Marine (DAFM) to extend the number of days from which a calf can move off-farm which IFA does not support.
“The majority of stakeholders including ourselves all disagreed with the introduction of any such extension,” the IFA National Dairy Committee Chair said.
“Breeding strategies and calf management are much more important for the outcome of calves than blanket extension of regulations relating to minimum age or minimum weight. Furthermore, we also do not want to dictate what breeds farmers can and cannot use on their farm. Instead, we want to encourage farmers to adopt the breeding technologies available on the ground such as genotyping, sexed semen, and the use of high Dairy Beef Index bulls. That is how we can deliver calves with higher Commercial Beef Values that will improve the overall beef-merit quality of calves born from dairy cows,” he said.
IFA is also seeking a greater presence of DAFM officials at livestock calf sales to promote better calf welfare.
“Ironically, this proposal has largely been ignored by DAFM who want to shift responsibilities onto other stakeholders,” Stephen Arthur said.
The IFA National Dairy Committee are in the process of updating its 2019 calf welfare policy document which will highlight practical actions that can be undertaken at both farmer, industry and DAFM level that will deliver on calf welfare and calf quality for the sector while avoiding further increasing regulations on farmers.