Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So Where To For The Bobby Calf ??

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'.


  1. It's a damn shame isn't it, and very sad. Why can't they be grown for pet meat or something?

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    1. male chickens are killed too. they are macerated in a machine the day they are hatched.

  3. maybe the concerned lobbist could buy the Bobby Calf and give it the future they say you should give it

  4. Whether it's a short life or a long life, at some point the bull calf has to be culled for good economic reason. That's the reality of farming. I just hope all the members of the lobby groups are not wearing leather shoes or sitting on leather chairs whilst exercising their "economic power".

  5. Farmer Gregie you are certainly making an effort to minimise suffering to bobby calves and treating your cows better than many. I do acknowledge that farmers work extremely hard and often in challenging circumstances. I don't agree with you that people who go vegan are adding to the suffering of of the bull calves.

    Wisewills, there are people who are giving up wearing silk garments, leather shoes and other animal products. The numbers are growing slowly. There is no excuse for killing other fellow beings and then justifying it or criticising people who choose to lead a compassionate life.

    And yes people are adopting calves and hens to allow them to lead safe, healthy lives. Here's a website for you to explore http://www.bedandbroccoli.com.au/

    1. Thanks RS,
      You are absolutely correct - there are many people making personal choices surrounding their position on animal welfare.

      It is most important that we agree to disagree...as people who enjoy the consumption of animal products on a daily basis don't appreciate being victimized for their lifestyle choices, by people who have a differing opinion. Would it be fair to say that you would feel likewise...in the reverse scenario?

      The farm tours that we offer have seen over 10,000 visitors pass through our gates in the last 12 months. Despite the fact that many people struggle with the fate of the bobby calf, which I explain in the same transparency of the blog....not ONE single bull calf has been adopted - NOT ONE :(

      I honestly think that many people have just lost touch with a reality that remains. If we all became vegans, many of our domesticated animals (used solely for food production for 1,000s of years) will cease to exist. As a community - we could not afford to breed them, and keep them alive - if there was no commercial return available. Cold hard truth - I understand if you can't see that...but it is basic economics.

      Farmer Gregie :)

    2. I have recently turned to veganism and don't agree with most farming methods (mainly those of factory farms) but I completely understand that you are trying to minimise any stress to the animals. You're completely right, if everyone were to go vegan then there would no longer be farm animals. I think the main issue is overpopulation of livestock and the amount of waste that we see going through big supermarkets. This is the major issue. Factory farming is what needs to stop but I am glad there are farmers out there like yourself at least giving your cows a decent life and the ability to live free of crowded sheds. I still try to promote your dairy to my friends in hopes of building a more ethical future. Thanks for trying to make a difference in the world. :)

    3. Thanks Jasmine - really appreciate the thoughts you've shared :)