A new financial support scheme for calf rearing has been announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

Commenting on the scheme, Minister Creed said: “This initiative is one of a series of measures being put in place by stakeholders in advance of the spring-calving season with a view to ensuring the highest possible calf welfare outcomes.”

The minister confirmed that he was making €1.5 million available in order to fund the scheme.

The primary investment focus is on supporting calf feeding systems such as computerised calf feeders, milk carts with mixer included and calf teat feeders.

When a farmer purchases one of these items, they will also be eligible to receive support for the purchase of other items, such as calf milk heaters, calf forage / hay racks, calf meal troughs, calf feed barriers and calf pen dividers.

The minister said that the minimum investment required is €1,000 ex. VAT, while the maximum investment being proposed will be €7,500 excluding VAT.

A 40% grant aid will apply to applications meeting all the terms and conditions of the scheme – in the event of over-subscription this figure may be reduced.

Minister Creed confirmed that applications will open on January 7, 2020. Terms and conditions and the relevant specifications will be available on the department’s website.

Minister Creed added that he and his department have been in “ongoing discussions” with stakeholders in the livestock sectors and this measure was in addition to other steps being taken by the various stakeholders to ensure the welfare of calves.

These include:
  • A minimum age at which calves may be moved from their farm of birth – this currently requires that they be at least 10 days-of-age;
  • Calf health and welfare seminars have been arranged by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) at a number of locations around the country;
  • Teagasc and Animal Health Ireland (AHI) are providing further calf care seminars early in the spring;
  • A recently compiled AHI Calf Care booklet has been distributed to all milk processors for distribution to their suppliers;
  • The department has engaged with exporters to ensure the welfare of calves being transported to the continent and has advised them of strengthened standards and newly updated requirements concerning booking systems at lairages in France;
  • The Farmed Animal Welfare Advisory Council (FAWAC) is currently finalising a new calf rearing advisory booklet. This will be distributed to all dairy farmers and fits in with efforts over the year under the Knowledge Transfer element of the existing Rural Development Programme.

Minister Creed welcomed the strong engagement by stakeholders in working towards ongoing improvement in calf welfare standards.

He outlined his view that milk processors had a significant leadership role in guiding and influencing industry standards towards meeting the expectation of consumers and that he was pleased to note moves by one large processor in issuing dairy calf management guidelines in conjunction with their milk purchasing policy document.

Minister Creed confirmed that he was writing to all 17,000 dairy farmers urging them to make adequate preparation at this stage for the upcoming calving season.

Concluding, Minister Creed said: “This effort is critical in ensuring the highest welfare standards were applied across the board in farms, marts and in the transport sector.

“These actions are also essential in protecting the image of Ireland as a sustainable producer of quality food.”