Search icon

Progress for male dairy calves

News Section Icon Published 10/12/2020

calves licking each other

A cross-industry coalition is aiming to eliminate the killing of dairy calves on farm by 2023. The farmer-owned dairy company Arla is acting even earlier, requiring their farmers stop killing calves under eight weeks old from 1st January 2021. The increasing use of sexed semen is helping farmers to achieve this.

Fewer unwanted calves

The use of sexed semen has increased dramatically, rising from 12% in 2012, to 30%+ in 2019 and rocketing to 50%+ in 2020. At the same time, the percentage of male dairy calves born has more than halved, so fewer will be shot at birth or exported to the continent.

The end of live exports

In addition to preventing the euthanasia of male dairy calves, this technology could also make live exports avoidable, as many insist that the trade is necessary in order to ‘solve’ the issue of unwanted male calves in the dairy industry. With the announcement last week that the Government plans to ban live exports following an eight-week consultation, we could finally see the end of cruel live exports.

This is not the first time that we have addressed the overabundance of unwanted male calves in order to take down the live exports trade: in 2006, Compassion and the RSPCA held a forum to find a way to increase the number of male dairy calves being reared in the UK, rather than exported. Real progress was achieved, with members of the forum agreeing to increase the number of male dairy calves incorporated into the beef chain, reduce the number of calves killed on farm and reduce the number of calves exported live for further fattening.

A positive development

“We are enthusiastic about the prospect of this technology becoming widespread,” says Phil Brooke, our Research Manager. “The use of sexed semen ultimately means that fewer male dairy calves will be born, and so fewer will have to be shot at birth or exported on long, stressful journeys for fattening and slaughter overseas. This can only be considered a positive development.”

Take Action

The use of this new technology could make the live exports trade obsolete, but by putting pressure on the Government, you can help us end the trade right now. Please add your voice to our submission to the consultation.


You are using an outdated browser which we do not support. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).