It’s long been a stain on the dairy industry – the slaughter of unwanted male “Bobby” calves in their first week of life.
- Maleny Dairies sex with semen before artificial insemination of the herd
- Practice ensuring that most calves are born female
- Family farm is trialling Ceres tags to monitor animal movement
Independent dairy processor Maleny Dairies on the Sunshine Coast said it was addressing these issues on its family farms.
The family-owned business celebrated the arrival of its first female calf, which was sexed with semen prior to artificial insemination through a program to ensure most calves are born female.
Bobby Mavericks welcomes visitors on factory tours of the farm and has a waiting list for adoption programs.
Owner Rose Hopper said he was asked a lot of questions about what happened to the male calves.
“We’ve had activists call us, we’re just encouraging them to come and visit and we’ll answer all your questions,” he said.
He said dairy has nothing to hide.
“We sell them and people use them as their pet lawn mowers.”
The dairy also tagged 10 cows with GPS trackers during a six-month trial with Brisbane-based agtech company Ceres Tag.
The 35-gram solar-powered ear tag communicates directly with satellites to monitor activity levels, temperature, and whether animals are attacked, stolen or misbehaving.
Maleny Dairies chief executive Stephen Tait said big retailers such as Coles and Woolworths wanted primary producers to be more transparent and manage their herds more responsibly.
“With Ceres Tag, we can use technology and data to demonstrate our ability to run our herd and our business,” Mr Tate said.
At $3,000 for 10 tags, it’s a hefty price tag.
But Ceres Tag project general manager Greg Campbell said costs would come down and the tag would provide proof of provenance for the producer’s customers.
“All of these can be saved if stock theft is reduced, through carbon accounting or better identification of sick animals,” Mr Campbell said.
As the dairy industry continues to face challenges, saving money is important.
Of the 573.8 million litres of fresh milk sold in Queensland last year, only 53 per cent came from the state.
The rest are trucked in from southern states where production costs are lower.
Since deregulation in 2000, the number of dairy farms in the state has shrunk from 1,500 to less than 280.
The average price for farmers in Queensland and northern NSW last year was 71 cents a litre.
Eric Danzi, co-chief executive of farmers’ advocacy group eastAUSmilk, said farmers continued to withdraw from the industry, fresh milk prices were now at record highs and competition for supply was fierce.
Maleny Dairies, Lactalis and Bega are currently selling for an average of 86 cents a litre, while Norco is selling at 84 cents a litre, Mr Danzi said.
“This reflects the severe shortage of milk, but also the high input costs of fertilizers, fuels and chemicals,” Mr Danzi said.
Invest in the future
Ross and Sally Hopper spent millions upgrading their factories.
Mr Hopper said Maleny Dairies was different in supporting smaller family farms because their yields were too small to never get a bonus from the larger processors.
“Demand is high and we are optimistic about the future,” Mr Hopper said.
“We don’t want more farmers to disappear, we have to take care of them.
“Once they’re gone, there’s no new beginning.”