IHC is calling for people to donate their calves this year, after what was an incredibly challenging season for the rural sector due to Mycoplasma bovis.

IHC National Manager Fundraising Greg Millar said the Calf and Rural Scheme will continue, and this year is more important than ever.

In a statement Millar said, "Farmers still managed to raise $650,000 for people with intellectual disabilities – and despite falling short of our $1 million target, it was great to see the rural community continue to support our cause."

Millar told The Country's Jamie Mackay it would be "fantastic" to bounce back from "such a terrible year for so many people".

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Although he acknowledged it was a big ask for dairy farmers to donate a calf, Millar said he hoped they would be able to "get in behind the calf scheme this year, as much as they ever have".

Those who are unable to donate a calf are still able to support the scheme by donating a virtual one at IHC's website www.ihc.org.nz/calf, said Millar.

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"What it means is you're buying what represents a calf, you're a virtual calf donor and you can have a huge contribution to people with intellectual disabilities around the country."

While Mycoplasma bovis has definitely affected the calf scheme, Millar said farmers have found ways to deal with it.

"What we've found is many farmers have found it's actually easier, because they get to choose the time and place and date to send their calf off for sale. They don't have to wait around for the IHC truck to arrive."

IHC can help towards transport as well said Millar.

"We want to get as many pink IHC tags into the ears of calves around the country as possible this year".

It's not just dairy and beef farmers who have helped out. Millar said he had also received interest from sheep farmers, who donated "an extra sheep or two" to IHC at the sale yards.

The most important aspect of the Calf and Rural scheme is the support it provided for those with intellectual disabilities said Millar.

"The work that IHC does and what it supports, is work with some of the most vulnerable people in rural communities around New Zealand - it's fantastic."

For those who wish to donate in lieu of a calf, the Virtual Calf Scheme is still available at IHC's website www.ihc.org.nz/calf, or phone 0800 442 500.