31 July 1998

Welfare rules may mean changes to calf rearing

By Jessica Buss

CALF producers may need to modify rearing practices to comply with new welfare rules.

The legislation came into force on Monday, although some parts will not apply until Jan 1, 2004.

ADAS welfare consultant Brain Pocknee says that most producers already meet the requirements – which are applicable to calves up to six months old – many of which are common sense.

Some alterations may be required, but Dr Pocknee says the cost within the industry is small.

"But for a few producers – such as those rearing in hutches – it may be significant." (see News.) Producers using hutches should replace tethers with a pen, and he advises fitting weldmesh to hutch sides, at £20-£40 a hutch. Group-housed calves may still be tethered for up to an hour for milk feeding.

Calves must be able to see another calf, and by 2004, they must have tactile contact. That means individual pen divisions must be perforated, and may mean replacing walls with hurdles.

Sick animals may still be kept in isolation, but over eight weeks old a vet must certify the need for it.

Bovine colostrum or a colostrum replacer based on bovine milk, not an artificial type, must be received within six hours of birth, says Dr Pocknee. "Keep some in the freezer."

Legislation says calves must be fed twice a day, ideally on milk. But legislation implies that the second feed could consist of fresh concentrates, he says.

Feed must also contain adequate iron to maintain a blood haemoglobin of 4.5mmol/litre, says MAFF. But independent vet consultant Tony Andrews warns that some imported milk replacers are too low in iron to meet needs, and advises checking labels.

Regulations require a minimum of 100g of fibrous feed such as hay or straw – provided separately to bedding – for calves over two weeks, and 250g to calves over 20 weeks, even for housed suckler calves.

Under the rules, calves over eight weeks old must be group housed. But this only comes into effect immediately in new buildings; existing units have six years to comply, and a group need only be two animals. The regulation does not apply if there is only one calf on farm.

Minimum space for group pens is 1.5m sq (16ft sq) a calf for calves under 150kg – the weight a Holstein calf reaches at four to five months old, says Dr Pocknee. Calves between 150kg and 200kg require 2m sq (21.5ft sq), rising to 3m sq (32ft sq) above 200kg. &#42


&#8226 No tethers or leads for hutches.

&#8226 Calves must have visual contact.

&#8226 Feed calves twice a day.

&#8226 Colostrum within six hours of birth.

&#8226 Minimum iron and fibrous feed levels set.

&#8226 Inspect indoor calves twice a day, outdoor calves once a day.


&#8226 Calves over eight weeks kept in groups.

&#8226 Minimum space allowances based on calf weight.

&#8226 No solid pen divisions for individual pens.

&#8226 Calves must have tactile contact.