Fonterra bans milk suppliers from killing newborn calves on farms without exceptional circumstances

Fonterra has banned their milk suppliers from the on-farm euthanasia of bobby calves - unless there are exceptional circumstances. 

From June, bobby calves - those are calves that won't become dairy cows - need to be used for another purpose, like meat or pet food.

Warning: This story includes images that may upset some people.

For some farmers animal welfare hasn't always been at the heart of farming, including when it comes to non-replacement calves.

Welfare regulations were introduced in 2016 but from June 2023, Fonterra's farmers will no longer be permitted to euthanise bobby calves on the farm. 

"MIA [Meat Industry Association] and our members, we are positive about the move, we recognise the issues around the reputation risk," MIA's industrial operations and manager Richard McColl said.

Exceptions could be made when there are humane reasons for doing so, otherwise, all non-replacement calves must enter a value stream - raised for beef or slaughtered for veal or pet food. 

"I think this shows that the dairy industry is under a lot of strain, their social license is under strain and they're trying to find ways to navigate that," SAFE campaigner Emma Brodie said.

Also under strain is the meat industry which is already facing labour shortages.

"There will be some delays through that peak processing period and we're working with the dairy sector to ensure farmers are working with that and are planning accordingly," McColl said.

"The big thing is to make sure the Government looks at the labour shortage to make sure it's sorted in the meat processors and that there is some collaboration between meat processors," added farmer Karl Dean.

In a statement Fonterra group director Anne Douglas said: "We have been working closely with meat processors, transporters, pet food processors and other industry groups for many months on changes which can be made to support farmers to meet the new terms of supply."