Every year 1.6 million dairy cows produce over 5,000 litres of milk each to satisfy Australia’s demand for milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream and other dairy products. Cows spend most of their time at pasture and may be supplementary fed with grains. They are milked once or twice a day. The average lifespan of a dairy cow is 6 to 7 years.
For cows to produce milk, they have to give birth to a calf every year. Most calves are separated from the cow within twelve hours of birth to reduce the risk of disease, and most do not stay on the farm for long. These ‘bobby calves’ are sent to slaughter in their fifth day of life and their treatment is a key welfare concern.
Dairy calves that are destined for the milking herd rather than slaughter will be disbudded (horns removed) without anaesthetic. Dairy cows may suffer from lameness or mastitis. Some dairy farmers still dock their dairy cows’ tails or induce the cow so that the calf is born prematurely. And each year, some 50,000 dairy heifers are exported overseas for breeding purposes to countries where animal welfare may be a low priority.
Care about dairy cow welfare? You can help us. Before you buy dairy products, contact the producer and ask about their standards for bobby calf and cow welfare.
Read more about bobby calves