Caring for bobby calves

The welfare of calves is a priority and at the heart of good farming business. Everyone in the supply chain – farmers, transporters, saleyard operators and processors – has a role to play in protecting the welfare of calves. Find out what you need to do.

Young calf regulations

MPI recognises that calves are vulnerable and we've set clear guidelines and expectations for their care. We issued 7 regulations in 2016 to strengthen the rules around calf welfare.

Regulations in force from August 2016

Four of the young calf regulations came into effect in August 2016. They:

  • require that young calves must be at least 4 full days of age and physically fit before they're transported off farm for sale or slaughter or as a result of sale
  • set a maximum of 12 hours' journey time for young calves
  • prohibit the transport of young calves by sea across Cook Strait
  • prohibit the killing of any calves by use of blunt force to the head, except in an emergency situation.

Download a summary of these 4 calf regulations [PDF, 194 KB]

Regulations in force in 2017

Three regulations were given delayed commencement dates, coming into force in 2017, to allow people in charge of animals time to make the changes required. These regulations:

  • require that young calves must be slaughtered as soon as possible after arrival at the slaughter premises, and within 24 hours of the last feed on farm – in force 1 February 2017
  • require that suitable shelter be provided for young calves before and during transportation, and at points of sale or slaughter – in force 1 August 2017
  • require that loading and unloading facilities be provided and used when young calves are transported for sale or slaughter or as a result of sale – in force 1 August 2017.

Download a summary of these 3 calf regulations [PDF, 206 KB]

Find out more

Read more about the regulations, some commonly asked questions, and actions people in charge of calves need to take to meet the requirements in the Further information on Animal Welfare (Calves) Regulations 2016. This document contains information about what you need to do and the specifics of each regulation. 

Further information on Animal Welfare (Calves) Regulations 2016 [PDF, 841 KB]

The full regulations are on the NZ Legislation website.

How will the regulations be implemented?

MPI is working with industry organisations to ensure people in charge of calves are aware of and comply with the regulations. We're developing resources, talking to the people across the supply chain, and will be investigating incidents where an offence may have occurred.

Find out more

Legal requirements

Along with the young calf regulations, owners or people in charge of animals must comply with the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and the minimum standards for calf care and management in codes of welfare.

Guidance on preparing, selecting and transporting calves

2017 spring calving mortality report

The 2017 calving season saw another major improvement in the welfare of bobby calves. This follows on from the significant improvement in 2016.

Figures from the 2017 spring calving season mortality report show that the number of bobby calves that died between farm and processing has again dropped by more than half. The rate went from from 0.12% in 2016 to 0.06% in 2017.

This improvement follows significant work by industry and MPI to improve the welfare of calves and the introduction of 7 new calf regulations.

Mortality rate in young calves in the 2017 spring calving season [PDF, 742 KB]

2016 calving season report

  • The mortality rate for bobby calves between farm and processing more than halved from 0.25% in 2015 to 0.12% in 2016.
  • A significant effort from government and industry through education, information, made a real difference.

Mortality rates in bobby calves 2008 to 2016 [PDF, 513 KB]

Who to contact

If you have questions about caring for bobby calves and the regulations, email

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