21 November 1997

Conversion of calf hutch costs could add up to £2.5m

By Shelley Wright

UK FARMERS face a £2.5m bill to convert the countrys 50,000 calf hutches before Jan 1, 1998, when it becomes illegal across the EU to tether calves.

Despite the NFUs hopes that there might still be time to seek an amendment to the calf welfare directive, to exempt calves tethered on long leads in hutches, MAFF insisted this week there was no possibility of that.

Brian Jennings, chairman of the NFUs animal health and welfare committee, said the union accepted the need to ban the very short tethers used in veal systems on the Continent. But the longer chains, up to 2m (6.6ft), used in calf hutches should be allowed to continue.

The hutches, used extensively by dairy farmers to house calves aged between four days and six-weeks-old, are sited outdoors. Each calf has its own hutch, significantly reducing the risks of disease transfer between young, newly-weaned animals – a factor that has led to the system being endorsed by farmers, vets and welfare groups alike, he said.

Without an exemption, the directive would mean all hutches would have to be converted to incorporate a small fenced run. Manufacturers figures suggested that could cost as much as £50 a hutch, he added.

A MAFF spokesman said the ministry had realised the implications for calf hutches but added government would not press for any amendments.