Farm animal welfare is an increasingly significant issue in Australia and overseas, and the bobby calf trade is a particularly sensitive subject.
Before you load calves to take them to the saleyards, ask yourself: Are these calves fit for transport and fit to be seen in public?
Every calf you load for the saleyards should be strong and healthy.
If you have any that are marginal, leave them at home.
Transport and sale day are stressful for young calves and you need to give them as good a start as possible.
Equally though, sale calves will be presented to a wide audience as you drive through town and unload at the saleyards and you should consider how the general public will view your calves.
A calf that is fit to leave your farm must be at least 23kg.
You will only know the weight of the calves if you weigh them, and in reality some calves will be already be heavier than 23kg at birth.
This does not necessarily mean they are fit to transport.
Calves must also be at least five days old before they are transported which means you need to know your dates.
Consider clearly identifying any pens of sale calves with the age of the youngest calf in the pen to prevent any mix-ups.
A dry navel and firm hooves are good indicators of suitably aged calves.
Even if calves meet the age and weight requirements, you need to consider whether the calves are strong enough to travel.
Can they stand and walk well, and are they bright and alert?
Scours or wobbly legs are sure signs that the calf is not ready for transport.
Before you leave, make sure calves have been fed within six hours of transport.
A tummy full of milk will help to set them up for the journey ahead. But don’t feed antibiotic milk to your sale calves.
It is a good idea to use separate feeders for sale calves and clear signage on-farm to minimise the risk of antibiotic residues.
Did you know that residues can remain on feeders even after several washes?
Of course you will also need to make sure that the calf has a NLIS tag and is accompanied by a National Vendor Declaration.
You should aim to have your calves arriving at the saleyards clean and warm.
The vehicle or trailer being used to transport bobby calves must be clean and have an enclosed front and a non-slip floor.
Space allowance should be minimised to avoid injury to calves in transit, however, they should never be overcrowded.
There are agreed industry standards for the transport and sale of calves that describe your legal duty of care for the welfare of bobby calves.
Selling calves that are immature, weak or sick is cruel and can result in premature death and may lead to prosecution.
The agreed industry standards make good common sense.
Calves that are strong and healthy will present well to buyers and present a more positive image for the dairy industry.
Remember, if in doubt, leave it out.
For more information, contact your local Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer.
For more about Land Transport Standards, go to: www.livestockwelfarestandards.net.au
—From Agriculture Victoria