The ‘surplus’ dairy calf: understanding dairy-beef supply chain relationships and the implications for calf welfare

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefResearch brief

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Abstract

Main Findings
• Excess dairy-origin calves are increasingly being sold into the beef supply chain, rather than
being slaughtered at a young age. Calves are sold from the dairy farm of origin to dedicated calfrearing enterprises or to calf procurement companies who distribute calves to farms
• We interviewed dairy farmers (calf producers), calf rearers and procurement companies to gain
an insight into the basis of this relationship, calf care and information transfer. The implications
for calf health and welfare were extracted
• Of those dairy farmers interviewed, the majority sold calves directly to calf rearers, which likely
reduces transport time and mixing between groups of calves, which may be detrimental for health
and disrupts social bonds of calves
• Farmers do not like the term ‘surplus calf’. They viewed these animals as a valuable economic
part of their farming enterprises
• The relationship between calf producers and calf rearers is based on personal reputation and
trust. Calf producers do not want to sell poor calves to calf rearers. As a result, calves destined
for beef are more likely to receive the same standard of care and nutrition as other calves
• There is the potential for data on health status, vaccination records and growth to be transferred
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSRUC's Rural Policy Centre
Number of pages2
Publication statusPrint publication - 14 Sept 2023

Rural Policy Centre Themes

  • Food, health and wellbeing

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