It has been a hot topic for farmers to contend with in recent years. Unfortunately there is great confusion caused by 'half truths' and mis-information pedalled by minority groups. Please read on to understand the very real challenges that we as farmers face on a daily basis.
Every decision made at farm level must be based on the impending financial outcome. If we as farmers take actions that will knowingly 'LOSE' money - or are forced by external regulations or lobby groups to do so, the viability of the farm itself is jeopardised. I can tell you from first hand experience, that as farmers scramble...or even fail to stay afloat - one of the first things to suffer is animal health and wellbeing.
It's all very well to point out the problem - and lay blame for its existence. The reality is...we already know the problem. Minority groups with their 'shock' tactics offer no genuine solution.
At the moment one such group is offering the following 'solutions'...
1. buy a stuffed bobby calf to show you support (and fund their business no doubt)
2. vote with your $$ and boycott all dairy products (and help inflict greater hardship onto the farms...where bobby calves will continue to be born)
They state, and I paraphrase, "If the treatment of bobby calves is to improve, it is imperative that the industry becomes accountable and for the public to exercise their consumer power."
Sadly for the bobby calf - the consumer is exercising their power on a daily basis. Through their buying habits, they have in fact sealed the fate of the bobby calf, as an unwanted by-product of the Dairy Industry.
It's a very honourable thing - to want to make a difference - to make a positive and lasting change. But it is much more important, and proactive to do enough research, to be armed with the knowledge and tools, to effectively do so.
While such lobby groups continue to complain loudly about the injustice of reality...farmers are left to cope with the situation at ground level. The very good news is that many farmers make the effort to do what is right. Although the consumer has chosen not to prolong the life of the bobby calf - the farmer will do their best to offer comfort and prevent illness during the 'unwanted' bull calves' short life.
Yes - here at the Dennis family farm, we feed our bull calves on the bottle beyond their day of birth...ensuring that they neither have too much or too little milk. This is critical to their good health, as they are extremely vulnerable - facing life threatening complications during that first (and often only) week of life. After feeding them one last time at about 7 days of age, we then load them onto our own ute - personally responsible for their safe delivery to our local abattoir, only 20 minutes from home. We do aim to minimise stress or suffering experienced by our bull calves at every opportunity.
I like to think personally, that we as farmers, are more about practical solutions. Transparency is important - as the message surrounding our actions is conveyed. So unless the 'activists' have a lasting victory...in their endeavour for you - the consumer - to stop consuming all dairy products immediately, or better still - become vegans...we - the humble dairy farmer, will continue to deal with what is very real, each and every day.
Sad but true - the bobby calf remains...the unwanted by-product of 'consumer demand'.