Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has warned farmers of the importance of maintaining high animal welfare standards, in a three-page letter sent to dairy farmers this week, which singles out the management of calves for particular attention.

The letter states that dairy farmers should plan to have adequate labour and facilities reflecting the number of cows on the farm.

I cannot over-emphasise the importance of careful planning

They should have a robust calf care regime, feed transition milk for the first two days of life and calves should be fed milk or milk replacer twice a day for the first four weeks.

The upcoming breeding season was also mentioned, with a reference made to cow numbers.

“I cannot over-emphasise the importance of careful planning for the breeding season,” the letter states.

“With careful planning to ensure constant improvements, dairy farms can make economic gains, not by increasing cow numbers, but by rearing replacements that provide greater economic returns and improve the carbon footprint of finished products.”

Live exports

No reference was made to the future of live exports of calves, but the Minister did say that it is really important that animals not being used on the farm as a dairy replacement have a value and are entitled to good care so they can be successfully marketed at home or abroad.