Change in attitude to dairy calves

The numbers of black-and-white male dairy calves being retained for rearing and finishing in the UK is on the rise, a report from the Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholders Forum (Calf Forum) claimed.


The organisation's annual progress report Attitudes to male dairy calves are becoming more black and white, launched this week, said it was seeing a shift in attitudes to dairy calves, with finishers seeing economic advantages to rearing them.

The report contains analysis and case studies from industry (AHDB, EBLEX), producers (Blade Farming, European Farmers Network, Linden Foods), and retailers (Asda, Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose) on how male dairy calves are being brought into the domestic supply chain for beef and veal, on how calf quality is being improved and on how animal welfare is being promoted.

The report highlights that not only are more of the UK’s male dairy calves going into domestic beef production systems, but that Calf Forum stakeholder actions should prevent a greater fall in overall prime beef production occurring from autumn 2009 onwards. This fall is likely to occur because of the current deficit in registrations of around 175,000 calves, as fewer cross heifers and beef cross males are being born.

The Calf Forum, which unites members of beef and dairy organisations, retailers, academics, government and animal welfarists, was first convened by leading stakeholders in June 2006. Its aims include development of economically viable outlets for domestic rearing of male dairy calves, improvement of calf welfare, development of UK and export market opportunities for domestic beef and encouraging consumers to buy welfare-friendly British beef and veal.

Carol McKenna, Calf Forum project manager, said: "The progress highlighted in our new report underlines what can be done if the expertise of industry, retailers, farmers and NGOs is joined up towards a common goal. Beyond Calf Exports Forum stakeholders are having a direct impact and increasing the uptake of black and white calves, despite the end of calf exports in July 2008, which increased the numbers of calves in the UK.

"In our new report, stakeholders are generously sharing a large amount of information to promote best practice. In the future it is expected that even more progress will be made as calf capture programmes are extended and as calf quality improves."

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