We are often being asked? What happens to male calves at your dairy farm?
It is a hard question to answer because although every animal is a treasure and a joy, it is not possible to rear all male calves.
We keep many on our dairy in Bodalla. You will see them in this photo. They have a heavenly existence, an idle life in knee-deep grass, keeping a watchful for the “boss” who may come by with a treat of grain.
These are some of the male calves who have been reared at the bottom of the garden at the back of our Bodalla Dairy Shed café. Twice a day, visitors participate in bottle feeding the calves. At around five months, they join their brothers in the paddocks behind and they are replaced with younger male dairy calves.
We could choose to rear heifer calves (as they become valuable replacement cows), but we feel good about giving these little guys a fairer go.
It is a hard and troubling ethical dilemma, that market forces have determined the length of a calf’s life.
But put simply, dairies don’t need many bulls, and the cost of rearing them by hand cannot be recouped at market. Dairy breeds do not fatten up like beef-cattle breeds, they tend to stay slight in the rump area, and there is very little call for veal.
These harsh economics control a farmer’s sentiment.
I know how deeply farmers care for their animals. Clearly, dairy farmers develop an extraordinary bond with their herds. They know most cows by name, many dairy farmers refer to herd as “my girls”, and the welfare and comfort of these animals is assured.
Our herd of contented “girls” graze on rich Tuross River pastures all day, turning up for milking twice a day. We market our beautiful Bodalla milk with the tag; “From moo to you, with love!”
To guarantee a longer life for male calves born on a dairy farm, there has to be a market demand for veal, greater than there is now.
And this is where Australians concerned with this issue could help the farmer; ENCOURAGE CONSUMERS TO EAT MORE VEAL!