New animal welfare rules for calf rearing

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), is proposing two changes for calf rearing in its new draft code of welfare for dairy cattle.

NAWAC has reviewed the existing code of welfare for dairy cattle and is consulting on updated minimum standards and recommendations for best practice.

Calf rearing is one of several areas being reviewed and the changes include feeding calves a minimum of twice a day for the first three weeks and not weaning them off milk before six weeks.

Proposed new rules

For the first three weeks after birth calves must be fed a suitable, good quality liquid feed at a rate of no less than 20 per cent of their body weight divided into no less than two feeds per day.

A calf must be given suitable liquid feeds that satisfy Minimum Standard 6a, until the rumen has developed sufficiently to allow it to utilise solids as the sole feed source, but must not be fully weaned off milk before six weeks of age.

All newborn calves removed from their dam must be offered sufficient good quality colostrum, or colostrum substitute as soon as possible after but within two hours of being removed, to ensure that any calves that have not sucked their dam receive colostrum within 24 hours after birth.

Consultation closes on 9 June 2022.

To view the proposed new code of welfare for dairy cattle and the regulations, and to make a submission, visit the MPI website.

In its background information for the proposed new rules NAWAC explains that “calves rely on a sufficient and timely consumption of colostrum to prevent failure of passive transfer to reduce the risk of calf mortality and morbidity.

Factors contributing to an increased risk of failure of passive transfer include calves not receiving colostrum within the initial 12-24 hours of life - before gut closure occurs, receiving an inadequate amount of colostrum during this period, being fed colostrum with low levels of immunoglobulins, or being provided colostrum that is contaminated with bacteria.

“While it is considered that calves should receive colostrum within the first 6 hours after birth to ensure adequate absorption of immunoglobulins, this is not always possible in pasture-based systems where calves may only be collected from the paddock once a day.”


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