Calf Exports forum publishes final report

The Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholders Forum has published its final report as the forum was closed at a roundtable in London on Wednesday (27 November).

Working towards improved welfare for male calves since its launch in 2006, the forum has achieved significant improvement, although it declared that its aims will continue to be pursued by individual stakeholders.

It has reduced the number of male dairy calves killed on farm from 84,817 in 2006 to 54,670 this year, and in that same time period, the number of live calves being exported to the Continent has been reduced by 90%.

Consisting of members ranging from the leading supermarkets to McDonald’s, Compassion in World Farming (CiWF), NFU Scotland, RSPCA and Defra, the forum succeeded in putting their differences aside in order to work towards a communal goal to achieve a better future.

John Webster, Emeritus Professor of animal husbandry at the University of Bristol, said: ”In 2006, more than a third of all male dairy calves born were either exported or shot at birth. Now, fewer than 15% suffer this fate, which is good for their welfare, and [positive news] for British farmers and consumers.
“This turnaround in the calf industry has been achieved through new markets opening up for veal and beef. The report highlights over 10 different case studies from retailers, processors and farmers that have created new markets for male calves.”

Areas that need continued effort are TB movement controls, and it is estimated that some £100m a year in sales are lost because calves are being killed before realising their economic worth.

George Jamieson from NFU Scotland claimed the forum had delivered “well-considered solutions” with clear outcomes. “The value of beef from the dairy sector is clear, certainly to NFU Scotland, and the forum has helped to highlight technical and commercial initiatives that have helped to make further progress in ensuring the value of dairy beef is captured,” he added.
Former head of the National Beef Association Robert Forster explained: “The key was to find realistic, and economically viable, domestic options that would make the export market for dairy-bred calves virtually redundant.
“Dairy farmers, processors and retailers were made aware of the advantages of drawing more of these calves into domestic beef rearing and finishing systems, so they could make a direct, and important, contribution to increases in farm income and improvements to the agricultural economy.”