Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Animal Welfare

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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194. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the welfare crisis in the dairy suckler calf industry; his further views on the fact that calves are being offered free to good homes (details supplied); in view of this welfare crisis, his plans to deal with same; and if polices are in place in his Department in relation to allowing 1.6 million dairy cows be put back in calf again to further add to the crisis over the coming year. [17058/22]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Every calf born on an Irish farm is of value, and every farmer is responsible for the welfare of his or her calves.

EU legislation is in place to protect the welfare of calves (Council Directive 2008/119/EC). This legislation is implemented in Ireland by national legislation, namely S.I. 311 of 2010, European Communities (Welfare of Farmed Animals) Regulations 2010.

My Department takes the welfare of all animals extremely seriously and significant resources are allocated to ensuring the welfare of dairy calves in particular. In 2020 for example, a total of 192 targeted dairy calf welfare inspections were carried out. In addition to pre-planned inspections, reports of specific welfare incidents or concerns are also investigated.

Whilst my Department is aware of reports of a small number of incidents such as the one to which the Deputy refers, this does not represent the norm.

Last year, I wrote to every dairy farmer encouraging them to develop his or her breeding policy, taking into account what will happen to each calf born on the farm – whether it goes on to become a dairy replacement animal or has a value in meat production. On-farm breeding policy determines the welfare, value and utility of calves born in dairy herds.

My Department engages regularly with key stakeholders on calf welfare and sustainability in the Calf Stakeholder Forum.

The Calf Stakeholder Forum aligns with the overarching policy objective to develop a more integrated strategy for the livestock sector with closer alignment of the dairy and beef sectors. This includes development of enhanced strategies for dairy and dairy beef rearing as complementary to suckler enterprises.

Members of the Forum together with my officials and Teagasc researchers and advisors, are working to encourage the further development of outlets for calves from the dairy herd, by improving the viability of dairy-calf-to-beef systems.


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