The practice of bobby calving angers consumers and farmers alike, with many producers now looking at alternative options for dairy calves and kids.
Ashgrove Farms is Tasmania’s biggest dairy beef producer, with the North-West dairy farms that supply Ashgrove keeping all bobby calves and hand rearing them.
The combined farms have 2500 dairy cows, with 1500 heifers and 1800 dairy beef steers.
Ashgrove Cheese marketing and communications manager Anne Bennett said the farms changed practice around eight years ago.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Ms Bennett said.
However, Ms Bennett warned consumer demand for cheaper food had driven product prices below production costs in some instances, like dairy beef.
“Consumers are the biggest drivers of change. It is a cost to keep and rear the calves into beef animals,” Ms Bennett said.
“It would be good to see a cultural shift,” she said.
Many of these dairy bull calves are bred for two or three years until they are between 500 and 600 kilograms and then sold to Tasmanian and mainland beef markets, Ms Bennett said.
Ashgrove Farms supplies Meat Standards Australia grade angus beef and its friesian cows are processed for lean beef and steak cuts, such as eye fillet.
Alternatives to bobby calving have been studied by Tasmanian Nuffield scholar and researcher Thomas Snare.
Robur Farm Dairy also keeps and hand rears its male goat kids, Tasmanian Food Co chief executive Jane Bennett said.
All goat kids are kept at the Sassafras farm and put through an intensive care program to give them the best start.
“There is a separate area for boys in another barn [on the property]. We are going to rear them for meat,” Ms Bennett said.
“Basically we’re creating a dairy beef market in the goat industry. There are lots of markets now for goat meat,” she said.
Tasmanian Food Co does not expect to make a profit from its goat meat operation, however Ms Bennett said it was expected to be cost neutral.
“It’s not a profit making centre, but we want to be able to say we reared them all,” Ms Bennett said.