Report reveals upturn in male calves' welfare

Salisbury Journal: The number of live calves being exported to mainland Europe has reduced by 90 per cent since 2006 The number of live calves being exported to mainland Europe has reduced by 90 per cent since 2006

A REPORT issued this month by the main stakeholders in UK calf welfare confirms the extent of their success over the past seven years.

The Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholders Forum has been working to improve the welfare of male calves since its launch in 2006.

And it has demonstrated what can be done when the expertise of retailers, farmers, processors and non-governmental organisations is united and they work together to achieve agreed goals.

The forum has, by helping to underpin a lift in the value of calves in the UK, secured a reduction in the number of male dairy calves shot at birth or exported live to veal farms in mainland Europe.

The report shows that: n Since 2006, the number of male dairy calves retained in Great Britain rose from 245,586 to 390,140 per annum. This is a rise of 58 per cent and represents 86 per cent of male calves born.

n The number of calves killed on farms reduced from 84,817 to 54,670 and now represents 12 per cent of those born in Britain.

n The number of live calves being exported to the Continent has reduced by 90 per cent since 2006 to less than 8,000.

However, there is a need for continued efforts of all those involved because: n Some £100m a year in sales is being lost to the beef and dairy sectors because up to 100,000 calves are still being killed before they have a chance to realise their real economic worth.

n Bovine TB movement controls remain an impediment to progress because 35,000 of the 100,000 calves lost are held up on bTB restricted farms.

Professor John Webster, emeritus professor of animal husbandry at Bristol University, said: “In 2006, more than a third of all male dairy calves born were either exported or shot at birth. Now, fewer than 15 per cent suffer this fate, which is good for the calves, good for British farmers and good for consumers.

“This turnaround in the calf industry has been achieved through new markets opening up for veal and beef.

“The report highlights more than ten different case studies from retailers, processors and farmers that have created new markets for male calves.”

Robert Forster, former head of the National Beef Association, said: “The key was to find realistic and economically viable domestic options that would make the export market for dairy-bred calves virtually redundant.

“Dairy farmers, processors and retailers were made aware of the advantages of drawing more of these calves into domestic beef rearing and finishing systems so they could make a direct, and important, contribution to increases in farm income and improvements to the agricultural economy.”

To read the forum’s final report, go to ciwf.org.uk and search for “calf forum”.

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