Caring for cows and calves is our first priority

Mar 23, 2016

Dairy farmers know that providing a safe, nutritious product starts and ends with caring for cows and their calves. This includes providing them a healthy diet, regular medical care and the right living conditions.

Part of keeping dairy cows and calves healthy involves separating calves from cows within their first 12 to 24 hours. This is to ensure the calves receive adequate colostrum, are protected from illnesses, which can be spread by manure from adult cows for example.

Once removed from the cow, calves are raised under shelter with suitable bedding in a clean, safe and warm environment.

In cattle the placenta of the cow keeps the maternal blood supply separate from that of the unborn calf. This prevents the transfer of antibodies from the cow to the calf before birth. For this reason, the calf is born with limited ability to fight disease.

By bringing the calves indoors, the farmer can make sure they receive at least two litres of colostrum at the first feed and another two litres within the first 24 hours of life. This ensure the calf can build its immunity. Calves left to suckle are less likely to build up their immunity.

Individual care is the key to a healthy and content calf.

Although many dairy farmers would like to raise male calves on farm, there are currently very limited alternative markets to sell the male calves to. The most common option for farmers, is to sell them as ‘bobby calves’ between 5 and 30 days of age. Another option is to rear the calves and sell them as dairy-beef. This option requires significant investment by farmers with the need to provide additional housing, feed and labour.

Our industry is always searching for alternatives, including through sexed-semen to reduce the number of male calves born but this does mean we need to have a market for the additional female calves. Further, we continue to explore market options for the sale of male calves.

Dairy farmers and the dairy industry understand that the practice of killing calves for the dairy-beef market is confronting. We take care of all animals on-farm to the best of our ability and in line with best practice; no calf is ever treated as a low-value by-product. Once calves leave the farm, we expect that they will be cared for and treated in a humane way.

The Australian dairy industry supports the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle as well as the Land Transport Standards and Guidelines. These were developed in partnership with animal welfare groups and Government, and provide industry with clear animal health and welfare standards.

The dairy industry expects that all persons managing livestock abide by these standards and it is committed to working with farmers to ensure best practice is observed on farm.

ADF, in collaboration with Dairy Australia, and other industry partners continues to work closely with transporters and the meat industry to ensure our cows and calves are well looked after. We also continue to work with industry, Government and animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA to ensure the wellbeing of our herds in all farming systems.

For further information on the Animal Health and Welfare Standards and Guidelines, click here. To view the publication, “Rearing Healthy Calves – How to raise calves that thrive”, click here.

Progress and challenges revealed by dairy’s 2015 Sustainability Report

Mar 11, 2016

There is a rising demand worldwide for companies and industries to meet the needs of people today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Australia’s dairy farmers and manufacturers are proud to be part of a global movement which aspires to meet this demand, whatever understanding people have of sustainability.

One of the ways we demonstrate our whole-of-industry commitment to increasing prosperity for industry and communities, our care for people and animals, and minimising our environmental footprint is through the Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework.

Established in 2012 to help guide Australian improvement against 11 targets and 41 performance measures the Framework is lead by the Australian Dairy Industry Council, managed by an industry Steering Committee, and supported by Dairy Australia.

Our 2015 Progress Report shows our improvement, but also our challenges. During 2015 there were several areas of improvement including:

  • The industry’s efforts in helping the Government to secure Free Trade Agreements with China, Japan and Korea, will help increase our competitiveness and profitability;
  • The intensity of waste sent to landfill by manufacturers, which has dropped 46% since 2011, exceeding the target for 2020 several years ahead of schedule;
  • The proportion of farmers with nutrient management plans, which at 58% is on-track to achieve the 2020 target of 80%, having almost doubled since 2013; and
  • The reduction in the use of routine calving induction - 88% of farmers do not use it compared to 80% in 2014.

Although we made good progress against some targets, there are others where more progress is needed, such as increasing the proportion of dairy farmers who are aware of, and implement, the recently agreed (January 2016) standards and guidelines for animal welfare. Currently, awareness stands at 56% and our target for 2020 is 100%.

There are other areas where the industry’s performance has declined, such as the proportion of people who recognise dairy as a quality product, which slipped to 69% from a baseline of 72% (the 2020 target is 80%).

To ensure our industry remains current, relevant and accountable in the context of changing global and domestic conditions and expectations, a review of all the targets, indicators and performance measures in the Framework will be undertaken during 2016.

The review will take into consideration a broad range of emerging issues, stakeholder views, industry priorities, political agendas and global trends.

The ADIC is excited to share our progress thus far – it demonstrates just how powerful dairy can be when the whole supply chain works together toward its common goals.

We encourage you to take the time to have a look at the key areas that interest you in the online report and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

A snapshot of the Australia dairy industry and our sustainability progress...

Routine Calving Induction* Phase-out

Mar 03, 2016

Australian dairy farmers are dedicated to providing a high standard of care for our animals, and to changing practices when in the best interests of our livestock and to protect the reputation of our industry.

The Australian dairy industry wants to be proactive on measures to support excellent animal welfare outcomes and to meet the expectations of the community, our customers and consumers. Failure to meet these obligations, risks the introduction of onerous and unrealistic regulations and/or damage to our reputation and markets.

In April 2015, following a series of meetings with farmers, vets and processors, the dairy industry agreed to work towards the phase-out routine calving induction nationally. Subsequently, the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) has introduced a target for 2016 to limit routine calving induction to 15% of cows per herd.

This target applies unless an exemption is granted. In 2016, exemptions may be granted either by implementing a herd fertility management plan or by obtaining dispensation for exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the herd manager. An 'Oversight and Engagement' Panel will consider requests for exemptions and grant approvals as appropriate. Whilst there is no legal requirement on dairy farmers to achieve the 15% target in 2016 the dairy industry is seeking to achieve industry-wide practice that is over and above the legal requirements and is confident farmers will adopt the recommended voluntary industry targets as the phase-out progresses.

Progress will be monitored and reviewed to inform the revision of annual targets until the phase-out is achieved and no routine calving induction without exemption for exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the herd manager are performed. The industry will work with farmers, vets and their advisers to ensure annual targets are achieved. This approach is similar to the successful New Zealand strategy where routine calving induction was phased out over a period of time using progressively reduced annual limits. 

The ADIC and Dairy Australia will continue to work with farmers, veterinarians, state dairy farmer organisations, processors and other stakeholders, to ensure all timeframes and targets are workable and achievable. We recognise that this involves a significant management change for some farmers.

As the Australian Cattle Veterinarians play a key role in calving induction, the industry has frequently consulted these experts. In mid-February there was a workshop for cattle veterinarians servicing dairy farms where routine calving inductions are performed. The workshop provided a forum to discuss the approaches and support required to implement the revised industry policy on routine calving induction and the need to cease late inductions.

Key items discussed were:

  • existing fertility programs such as InCalf, InCharge and Repro Right and additional assistance;
  • the implementation of fertility management plans;
  • the dispensation process; and
  • ongoing monitoring and reporting templates.

The workshop recognised that the tools necessary to improve herd fertility and to phase out routine calving induction are available for both vets and farmers but that it will not be an easy process and engagement across the industry throughout the whole process is critical. Vets who were unavailable at the time of the workshop are being contacted by the Australian Cattle Vets and Dairy Australia with information about the phase-out of routine calving induction.

A particular concern recognised by the industry has been the use of late calving induction.

Late inductions (performed within 4-6 weeks of the due calving date) provide no overall reproductive benefit for the herd and should not be performed except for the welfare of the cow or her calf. Early pregnancy testing is required by these practices to make sure late inductions are not occurring.

Further information on the phase out of routine calving induction can be found on the Dairy Australia and Australian Dairy Farmers websites.

*Routine calving induction is all non-therapeutic inductions.


2016 PAG nominations now open: don’t miss out!

Mar 01, 2016

Are you a member of Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) interested in making a contribution to policy for our industry? There are two weeks left to register your expression of interest in joining one of ADF’s Policy Advisory Groups (PAGs):

  • Markets, Trade and Value Chain;
  • People and Human Capacity;
  • Animal Health and Welfare;
  • Farming Systems and Herd Improvement; and
  • Natural Resources.

PAGs play a key role in setting business objectives for our industry and driving policy formulation. They help to ensure dairy interests are properly represented at a domestic and international level.

ADF President, Simone Jolliffe said the role of the PAGs was critical to policy formulation for the long-term future of dairy.

“We face many challenges as an industry and have always relied on the vision, passion and participation of people within dairy to help find viable solutions,” said Mrs Jolliffe.

ADF PAGs recommend policy settings to the ADF via the National Council and also act in an advisory capacity providing feedback to Dairy Australia, state dairy farmer organisations (SDFOs) and other bodies like the National Farmers Federation and the Australian Dairy Products Federation.

Mrs Jolliffe welcomed and encouraged direct involvement from dairy farmers to drive policy in the right direction.

Expressions of interest close Friday 18 March 2016. For more information and to receive an application form contact


Select Tags