Updated calf regulations

Over the last few years there has been updates in the animal welfare regulations particularly regarding calves.

These were developed to strengthen the rules around young calf welfare.  Since the calf regulations were originally issued in 2016, they’ve now been incorporated in the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018. This hasn’t changed their intent and some regulations have been split to better reflect transporter and farmer responsibilities.  Alongside some of the previous changes are those that will come into effect on the 1st October this year, the one of which relating to calves is disbudding cattle.

Where a regulation specifically refers to ‘young calves’, it means calves up to 14 days old that have been separated from their mother.


Prohibition on killing calves by blunt force to the head

Calves (not just young calves) must not be killed using blunt force to the head except in an emergency situation.  This applies to any calf that has not been weaned off milk or milk replacer.


Maximum time young calves may be off feed before slaughter

Young calves must be slaughtered as soon as possible after arrival at the slaughter premises.  The maximum time a calf can be off feed is 24 hours. There are feeding requirements if it isn’t possible to slaughter the calf within 24 hours of the last feed on farm.


Shelter requirements for young calves before transportation and at points of sale or slaughter

Suitable shelter must be provided for young calves before transportation off the farm for the purpose of sale or slaughter, as a result of sale, and at points of sale and slaughter.


Ensuring young calves are fit for transport

Young calves must be at least four full days (96 hours) old before being transported.

They must be physically fit including no injury, disease or impairment that could affect the calf’s welfare during the journey, including the ability to rise from lying, stand evenly on all four limbs, move freely, and protect itself from being trampled or injured. They must have firm, worn flat hooves and a shrivelled navel cord.


Maximum duration of transport for young calves

The total journey time for young calves mustn’t be more than 12 hours.


Requirements for loading and unloading facilities used with young calves

Loading and unloading facilities must be provided when young calves are transported for sale or slaughter, or as a result of sale, so that they can walk onto and off vehicles. Transporters must take all reasonable and practicable steps to use these facilities.


Shelter requirements for young calves during transportation

Suitable shelter must be provided for young calves during transport.


Prohibition on transporting young calves by sea across Cook Strait

Transport of young calves by sea across Cook Strait is prohibited.


Disbudding cattle

Disbudding is painful.  From 1 October 2019, you must use local anaesthetic when disbudding and dehorning. If you disbud without local anaesthetic you could face a criminal conviction and a fine of up to $3,000 for an individual, or $15,000 for the business. 

The disbudding procedure isn’t limited to veterinarians – please call us if you wish to be certified in the use of local anaesthetic for disbudding.


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