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Published: 31 Jul 2020

calf nose

It is important that ALL animals on EVERY dairy farm are cared for properly. Here are the key points for bobby calf care on dairy farms.

Lesley Irvine, TIA

Bobby calves must:

  • be fed colostrum (2-4 L/calf) within the first 24 hours of life.
  • be fed daily with adequate milk or milk replacer and have access to water at all times.
  • have protection from excess heat, sun, wind and rain, and are kept clean and dry with bedding. Exposed concrete, bare earth and mud floors are not acceptable.
  • be handled gently at all times. Do not throw, hit, drop or drag a calf at any time. Bobby calves must not be moved using dogs or electric prodders.

If you are selling bobby calves through a saleyard or to a processor, they must be at least five days old and fit and healthy for the intended journey. They must also:

  • have been adequately fed milk or milk replacer on the farm within six hours of transport.
  • have an auditable and accessible record that identifies the date and time they were last fed.
  • be alert with no visible disease, deformity, disability, injury or blindness.
  • be able to bear weight on all four limbs and to rise from a lying position.

In addition, their hooves should be firm and worn flat and navels should be dry and wrinkled, withered and shrivelled and not pink or red coloured, raw or fleshy. Having a dry navel cord should not be the only factor used to determine a calf's age. Each farm should have a system in place to track the age of bobby calves - the use of spray dots (one dot for each day or colour for the week day it is born), tail tape (particular colour for the day of the week the calf is born), tag number…

It is important to note, that while it is the responsibility of the transport driver to not load calves that are unfit for transport, it is the responsibility of the producer (or their representative) to ensure only calves that meet the above requirements are presented for collection by the transport driver. It isn't ok to expect the transport driver to sort through a pen of bobby calves to 'work out' which ones are fit to sell.

While calves less than 5 days old cannot be sold in a saleyard or consigned to a processor, they can be sold to a calf rearer. Calves being sold to a calf rearer must:

  • be fed a liquid feed within six hours before loading.
  • be provided with thick bedding and room to lie down.
  • be protected from cold and heat.
  • not be transported for longer than six hours.

Dairy Australia has information resources available including the "caring for bobby calves before and during transport" booklet available here:

If you would like any of the online resources in hard copy for your farm team, please contact DairyTas on 6432 2233.

Information for this article has been sourced from Caring for bobby calves before and during transport published by Dairy Australia.