September 22, 2022
Teagasc director calls for end to slaughtering of unwanted male dairy calves in Ireland
The director of Irish agri-food authority Teagasc said that the practice of slaughtering unwanted male dairy calves in Ireland must be eliminated.
Frank O'Mara told the Agriland livestream at the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co. Laois, that the objective should be that every animal born on a farm has a use.
Between January and the end of May this year, 29,802 calves under the age of six months were slaughtered in Ireland.
O'Mara denied that Teagasc should take responsibility for the breeding advice it had previously given to dairy farmers.
"Our message has always been, yes, as a dairy farmer you obviously want to breed a cow that's going to give you a good return in milk," he said. "But we've always said that you can do that while, at the same time, ensuring that calf has a value for beef production, whether it is a Friesian bull calf or a cross bred calf.
"That's the way we have always approached it. We've said for many years if you are breeding Jersey cows, you should use sexed semen.
"I think it's an issue the industry and ourselves, as one of the players in the industry, we certainly have to address and eliminate that practice. The dairy industry rightly puts itself as an industry that produces a high-quality product.
"I think for any industry that does that, you can't have part of your industry which has a sub-standard or an unwanted product. It does diminish the whole brand.
"Dairy farmers are very conscious of that; the potential to damage the brand of the industry as a whole. This is an issue that has to be sorted."
O'Mara said that Teagasc encourages dairy farmers to use the Dairy Beef Index to produce good quality beef calves and promotes a high standard of calf rearing through Animal Health Ireland (AHI).