The Department of Agriculture has begun an investigation at a Limerick farm after almost 400 calves were found dead.
The animals — predominantly Friesian and Jersey type bull calves — were discovered on the farm in the south of Limerick.
It is understood that the calves died due to a variety of issues, including disease and malnutrition. The discovery was made following a complaint from a neighbour over a smell coming from the farm.
An ISPCA spokesperson said: “The ISPCA was made aware of a situation allegedly involving a large number of dead calves on 29th August and has established that the matter is being dealt with by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and has offered its assistance to DAFM if required”.
A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council said it has been made aware of an incident and is liaising with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Last year, 270 dead calves were discovered on a farm specifically set up as a calf rearing unit in northeast Galway. The calves had died as a result of disease and malnutrition and the Department launched an investigation into the matter. At the time, the incident was viewed as one of the biggest animal welfare incidents in the history of the State.
Animal welfare regarding Friesian and Jersey dairy bred bull calves has been an ongoing concern for the dairy industry in Ireland which prides itself on welfare standards. Typically dairy bull calves are low value animals, with poor potential to fatten for the beef trade due to their dairy genetics. Roughly 200,000 of these types of calves are exported every year to veal farms in continental Europe while those that remain are sometimes sold for as little as €5 each.
Since the abolition of dairy quotas in 2015, the number of dairy cows in the country has been increasing.
Figures from the Department of Agriculture show that there are nearly half a million more calves born to dairy dams every year — an increase of 46 per cent since 2011.