What of the calves?: the destructiveness of dairy | Viva!

What of the calves?: the destructiveness of dairy

Isolation

It is common for dairy farmers to use semen from dairy bull breeds, such as Holstein, for one half of their herd and semen from beef breeds, such as Charolais or Hereford, for the other half. It follows that half the female calves born will be pure dairy breed and these follow in their mother’s footsteps, replacing cows who have been killed. The first six to eight weeks of life are usually spent in small, isolated stalls, making exercise and socialising with other calves impossible. Despite the vast quantities produced, there is no mother’s milk for them, just commercial milk-replacer. At eight weeks old they must be group housed and at a few months old may be put outside to graze or transferred to a zero grazing unit. At just over a year old, artificial insemination begins, as does their gruelling life as a milk machine. Like their mums, they will die prematurely at about six years old and be used for low grade meat products. The other half of new-born females – the dairy/beef crosses – are kept for beef and slaughtered at 15 to 24 months old.

Destruction

Unlike their sisters, male calves can’t produce milk and are similarly taken from their mothers at a day or two old. Around a half are pure dairy calves (dairy mother and father) while the other half are dairy/beef crosses. About half of the pure dairy males are reared for beef. As they simply aren’t ‘beefy’ enough, they are raised intensively, confined in buildings and yards for most of their year-long lives, when they are killed for low-grade beef. The remainder of these pure dairy male calves are either raised for veal or shot shortly after birth – the unwanted by-products of milk production. Current estimates are that 100,000 to 150,000 bull calves in the UK are shot within hours of birth. Viva! filmed the shocking fate of male calves at farms supplying milk for the confectionary giant, Cadbury. The 50 per cent of calves that are dairy/beef crosses are usually sold to beef farms and as young as seven-days-old may have to endure long journeys to and from livestock markets across the UK. Around 40 per cent of all the UK’s beef comes from dairy herds.

You love your milk. But do you love it more than you love calves? You'd be shocked if you knew about the destructiveness of dairy. It's truly a sad business.