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Calf focus: The latest on Red Tractor guidelines

Red Tractor changes were implemented in November 2021. The full revised V5 update can be found at Areas affecting calf management are discussed below.

Euthanasia of calves

Breeding and management policies should encompass strategies to remove the need for routine euthanasia of calves. Euthanasia of calves for welfare reasons under veterinary advice is allowed.


Breeding policies may look into the use of semen breeds and should show replacement rate calculations to manage the number of dairy bull calves born onto the farm. Replacement rates should prepare for losses around calving, pre and post weaning as well as failure for heifer to conceive and subsequent pregnancy losses. Farm figures will vary, but the policy should prepare for 25% of replacement numbers to be lost between positive PD to calving down as a heifer.


Once calves are born on the farm management policies should be in place.

  • Facilities should be in order to cover the number of calves being born in the calving pattern.

  • Identify a market/purpose for the calf breed

  • Outline a provision for tb breakdown

Annual collation of calf birth and deaths

A 2020 study found 25% of on farm deaths occurred before animals were three months old. Data taken from BCMS from 2011 onwards found the mortality rate in dairy calves under 12 weeks old to be 6%, compared to 2.9% in beef calves of the same age. National data is currently not published so the extent of the issue is largely unknown.

Aside from national collation of data, it is beneficial for each farm to accurately record calf data for annual farm benchmarking. Genomic and economic losses are involved in neonatal calf death, as potential genetic progress will not reach the breeding herd.

Information required to record:

  • Cows calved

  • Calves stillborn/die in less than 24h

  • Calves dying from 24-48h old

  • Calves sold <42 old

Analgesia required in husbandry procedures

  • Disbudding

  • Dehorning

  • Castration

  • Removal of supernumary teats

Documents And Procedures - Dairy (DR) - Red Tractor Assurance

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