The Department of Agriculture intends to allow Bord Bia to analyse animal identification and movement systems (AIMS) data to begin identifying Bord Bia quality assured (QA) farms which may be sending young calves to the factory for slaughter.
From 1 January 2024, dairy farmers will be banned from slaughtering calves at less than eight weeks of age under a new calf welfare charter being introduced by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS).
The charter has been approved by milk processors and it will be incorporated into milk supply agreements and the Bord Bia sustainable dairy assurance scheme (SDAS).
The Department and Bord Bia have put forward a data-sharing agreement which would allow Bord Bia to analyse this farmer AIMS data from 24 October.
This proposed agreement states that analysing the data will allow Bord Bia to flag concerns with “farms where a large number of young calves are being slaughtered in a given period” and carry out checks on flagged farms during quality assurance audits.
A “particular threshold” is to be set which determines whether a farm is flagged, with a note to be investigated at the next QA scheme audit.
Stakeholders, such as the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), have been consulted on the audit changes, with concerns around thresholds “discussed in detail” to ensure only farmers “engaged in the bad practice” are targeted.
Farmers will be given the opportunity to address issues around calf slaughter and “improve practice” before sanctions, which include being withdrawn from the quality assurance scheme, are applied.
The proposed agreement states that this “is proportionate because there is a genuine requirement to protect the integrity of the dairy industry and the reputation of the relevant schemes to reduce poor practice by a limited number of farmers in this area”.
“Though not illegal, it is considered bad practise in the industry to slaughter a large number of young calves. The purpose of the new criterion in the QA scheme audit is to address this bad practise.”
The proposed data-sharing agreement with Bord Bia has been opened for a 28-day public consultation.
The consultation will remain open until 9 October and submissions can be made here.