Dairy farms suspected of slaughtering healthy calves will be red-flagged and targeted for inspection during Bord Bia audits of milk suppliers in 2024.

The red-flagging will alert farm inspectors to zone in on calf slaughter and calf management on these farms.

Farmers are prohibited from slaughtering calves under eight weeks of age, under new rules, which have been incorporated into Bord Bia’s Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS).

“Once Bord Bia receives the new AIMS [Animal Identification and Movement Systems] data in the coming weeks, Bord Bia will carry out [an] analysis to identify herds on which healthy, young calves may have been slaughtered and to flag this as a concern on the Bord Bia QA system,” a Bord Bia spokesperson said. “The flag will alert the auditor assigned to complete the next audit of a flagged herd to review this issue with the farmer.”

Bord Bia’s focus on calf slaughtering this year is part of a concerted effort by the dairy industry to reduce calf slaughter. Close to 31,000 young calves were slaughtered in 2023. This equates to around 1.3% of all calves born and 2% of dairy calves.

The country’s main dairy processors have warned farmers that they risked non-collection of their milk if they slaughtered calves under eight weeks of age and will lose their SDAS certification.


However, farmers will continue to be allowed to slaughter calves in Department of Agriculture approved facilities this year, the Irish Farmers Journal has learned.

Under the SDAS rules, farmers who are found to have slaughtered calves this spring will be required to put in place a calf breeding and management plan for 2024-2025.

Farmers will, therefore, be allowed to slaughter calves this spring, and then implement the plan this summer and into next year. This approach will hold their SDAS certification – albeit with a yellow card.

One dairy sector official accepted that this was the case; admitting that it gave farmers another year “to get their house in order” on the issue.