Bobby Calves

Denied their mothers and right to life, the fate of the calves born to dairy cows is one of the dairy industry's dirty secrets.

For the purpose of producing milk, cows need to be kept continually pregnant and give birth, but once their calves are born there is no further use for many of them. They are treated as mere waste products with little or no attention given to their welfare. Shockingly, there are around two million calves killed soon after birth every year in New Zealand.

The Fate of Calves

In nature, calves would naturally suckle five to eight times a day for the first few weeks and stay with their mothers for up to two years. However, calves born into the dairy industry are removed from their mothers soon after birth and either slaughtered, raised to be sold as veal or beef and if female, kept to replace their worn-out mothers in the herd.

Male calves raised for veal are kept in paddocks or sheds and fed from mechanical feeders. They are killed after only a few months of life.

Because cattle raised for meat and milk are different breeds there is not a high demand for the meat from dairy calves so many go straight to slaughter. These calves are known as ‘bobby calves'. Each year, death is the fate of millions of just-born bobby calves in New Zealand. This does not include calves killed on 'home kills' or aborted calves.

On a Road to Nowhere

There is little money in bobby calves, some are sold to pet food manufacturers for as little as one dollar, so the industry wants to get rid of these animals as soon as possible. Although bobby calves must be at least four days old and in good condition before being sent to slaughter, some farmers still present weak and listless calves, so young they still have wet navels. These fragile, vulnerable calves are often weak from lack of food and the long journey to the slaughterhouse.

Like all young animals, they are often confused and bewildered and are simply too young to handle the stress, motion and length of transport.

New regulations were created by the Ministry for Primary Industries in August 2016, which still subject calves to long journeys without food. 

Grieving Mothers

Milk production is a nightmare cows can never wake up from. Can you imagine taking a crying baby from his or her mother?

Cows, like humans, are pregnant for nine months and they too bond strongly with their babies. But those in the dairy industry are destined to never be together. Cows grieve for their lost calves and it is common on dairy farms to hear the sad bellowing of mothers calling for their lost babies for weeks. This is the reality of dairy, where animals are treated as a commodity.