Department conducts farmer survey on calf welfare and management

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is currently conducting a survey among farmers to gauge views and motivations in calf welfare and management.

Confirming the news to AgriLand, a spokesperson for the department said:

“The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as part of its stakeholder engagement, is currently carrying out a survey to elicit farmer views and motivations on calf management in the area of calf welfare.”

On the survey it is noted: “The Department of Agriculture values the opinions of Irish farmers regarding the increased number of male dairy calves in recent years.

The aim of this study is to better understand the views of farmers regarding how they manage their calves, especially in the context of welfare.

The 10-minute survey contains 19 questions, with some of these gauging the farmer in question and their enterprise, as well as herd size, herd breed, age, location and farm type.

The survey asks farmer recipients if they are concerned by the increase in calf numbers in recent years, and gets participants to rank the potential drivers of this rise, and possible options for managing the increase.

Possible choices listed include: a change in department policy; to increase beef merit of male dairy calves; increase exports of male dairy calves; rear calves for beef production on one’s own farm; encourage a greater use of sexed semen; greater use of contract rearing for male calves; curtail production or reintroduce quotas; or to try and establish a native veal industry.

The department then asks participants to rank options for managing calf numbers if live exports were to cease.

Farmer contributors are also quizzed on stakeholders responsible for making changes to calf numbers, with options ranging from individual farmers to: the department; Bord Bia; farm organisations; Teagasc; and the European Commission.

This is followed by questions on labour demands, calf husbandry and participants’ measures for managing dairy male calves.