Dairy farmers will be banned from slaughtering calves at less than eight weeks of age from 2024 onwards, according to a new calf welfare charter being introduced by 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).

This means that farmers who continue to send calves for slaughter at less than eight weeks of age will be in breach of SDAS and milk supply agreements and processors could refuse to collect their milk.

The charter states that no healthy calf can be sent for slaughter, except in force majeure circumstances, such as a TB outbreak.

According to ICOS chief executive TJ Flanagan, the new measure strengthens the original calf welfare charter introduced in 2019.


“At that time, the on-farm euthanasia of calves was prohibited and a timeline was put in place for the ending of calf slaughter in processing plants and that time has now come.

“Given that dairy farmers will be deciding over the next few months on what bulls they will be using next season, they have time to make any necessary changes before these rules come into force,” he said.

So far in 2022, there were over 30,000 calves slaughtered at meat plants. In September, the Department of Agriculture wrote to farmers advising them to find “alternative, more socially acceptable” ways of rearing calves.