Globally, millions of farm animals are utilised to produce milk and other dairy products daily. Cattle are the most widely used although goats, donkeys, buffalo, and other animals form part of dairy production units. The demand for milk and dairy products by consumers fuels the dairy industry, most often at the expense of the animals.
South Africa has enormous commercial and emerging dairy farms which are largely concentrated in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces and Kwa-Zulu Natal. Heifers (female cattle that have not yet had a calf) are forced into gestation generally by artificial insemination at approximately 14 months of age and their gestation lasts nine months. Dependent on productivity, a single cow may be subjected to this cycle from her first insemination anywhere until the age of 13 years old.
Each pregnancy may produce a calf or twins in rare circumstances, but it is a certainty that every calf is removed at birth or within two days from their dams or mothers. Heifers are usually confined in single calf pens for 6 – 8 weeks and then put into groups where they will usually spend the rest of their productive lives in. Bull or bobby calves are not so privileged and are in general sold off within the first few days to anyone willing to spare a few hundred Rands. They often end up living in ominous conditions or are purchased by farmers to be reared as slaughter stock. Their welfare is rarely ever contemplated.