Bobby calves 

Generally within a few days of birth, newborn dairy calves including all males and some females are removed from their mothers. During this time, young calves are very susceptible to stress and disease. All male calves and some female calves will be regarded as surplus (bobby calves). 

During transport and holding, they are often stressed especially due to separation from their mothers, the unfamiliarity with handling and transport and food deprivation. The RSPCA does not support the practice of transporting young bobby calves for slaughter at such a young age due to welfare issues associated with handling, transport and feed deprivation. 

For more information on bobby calves visit the RSPCA knowledgebase.

Inducing calving 

Administering a drug to dairy cows to make them give birth prematurely (calving induction) is carried out by some dairy farmers to make sure the milking herd ‘comes into milk’ over a set period of time. The RSPCA is opposed to induced calving as it causes welfare problems for both cow and calf including calf death and risk of health complications for the cow. Fortunately, the practice is uncommon and the Australian dairy industry has made a commitment for all farmers to phase out calving induction but no end date has been given. 

For more information on inducing calving visit the RSPCA knowledgebase.


Udder infection (mastitis) is one of the most important health and welfare issues affecting dairy cows. It also reduces the quality and amount of milk produced. Factors that contribute to mastitis include hygiene and other procedures at milking. Higher producing dairy cows tend to be at greater risk of mastitis. The condition can be very painful so good dairy management (e.g. good hygiene and careful handling at milking) are important to reduce the risk of mastitis and ensure that, when it does occur, it is detected early and treated promptly. 

For more information on mastitis in dairy cows visit the RSPCA knowledgebase.


Lameness is a common problem in dairy cows because cows often have to walk long distances to the milking shed, traverse slippery wet floors and also stand for long periods on hard concrete. Other contributing factors include nutrition and handling for example if the cows are moved too quickly. Lameness is painful so the RSPCA believes that good dairy cow management must aim to reduce the causes of lameness and ensure that, when it does occur, it is picked up and treated promptly.

For more information on lameness in dairy cows visit the RSPCA knowledgebase.