New regulations for calf handling

Farmers must have calf loading facilities that meet the new regulations.

New regulations for young calves introduced by the Ministry for Primary Industries affect any farmer who sends calves off-farm for sale or slaughter, transport operators and meat processors of young calves.

If farmers are not prepared and do not comply with regulations, they could either face fines or will not be able to transport calves off-farm. For more information about the new regulations visit the Ministry for Primary Industries website.

The following information about the new regulations can be found on the DairyNZ website:

Young calves must be slaughtered as soon as possible after arrival at the slaughter premises. The maximum time a calf can be off feed is 24 hours.

Loading and unloading facilities must be provided when young calves are transported for sale or slaughter. This means that calves can walk onto and off vehicles by their own action. Transporters must also take all reasonable steps to use these facilities. Suitable shelter must be provided for young calves before, during and after transportation.

Fit for transport

Other regulations for calves came into force in August 2016 and these included that calves must be fit for transport.

Calves must be at least four days of age – or 96 hours old – and physically fit before they are transported off-farm for sale or slaughter. This applies to any young calf that is up to 14 days old and has been separated from its mother.

There is to be no use of blunt force to the head for putting down calves, except in an emergency situation to avoid unnecessary suffering. This applies to any calf that has not been weaned off milk, or a milk replacement. There is a maximum duration of 12 hours’ journey time for young calves being transported and there is a prohibition on transport by sea across Cook Strait.

Whenever calves leave the farm on a truck, working with the transporter to make their job as easy as possible will help to ensure calves are treated with care.

Holding facilities

Guidelines for calf holding and loading facilities regulations will come into effect from August 1, 2017. These facilities must be off the roadside and accessible for the truck and trailer to reverse up to. Calves should be able to walk on to the truck.

Loading design options include an earth bank with wooden retaining wall. Using existing topography; by digging into a bank or creating an earth mound against a wooden retaining wall to provide face to load off. Depending on existing topography and available drainage, it may be possible to reduce the necessary loading height by digging down to lower the deck height of the truck so that the access point is lower.

Packed earth ramps

Packed earth ramps; form sides and loading face using treated posts and timber rails, then create the ramp by filling between the timber sides using packed earth.

Using an existing raised structure; adapting an existing woolshed or utilising a disused tanker stand may provide a low-cost option to achieve correct loading height.

Typically, loading ramps for cows are not suitable for calves because they are usually too steep and often have wide gaps in the sides that become trap hazards for calves. Attaching plywood with cable ties to create a solid-sided ramp may be an affordable option. A sheltered holding area may also have to be created.

Commercial holding platforms are available from a timber merchant or farm supply stores in some regions. They offer a variety of kitsets, typically moveable, made of timber on skids. Not all kitset platforms are supplied with a roof, so they may need to be placed within an existing structure to provide sufficient shelter from extreme weather conditions.

Check that commercially-produced holding pens have been designed to meet the New Zealand Building Code requirements and that producer statements are available.

Another option for raised platforms is a ramp incorporated into the design so calves will not have to be lifted into the holding area. Using a tractor-mounted carry tray may be an option on some farms.


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