Male dairy calves may be transported from their farm of origin at a young age. This process may involve an extended period off feed and indirect consignment through an intermediate facility, prompting potential welfare concerns. To assess the impact of transport, 59 male Holstein-Friesian dairy calves (5–9 d old) were either (1) held in situ on farm (control); (2) transported for 6 h; (3) transported for 12 h; or (4) transported for 1 h to a holding facility where they were kept for 6 h and then transported for 5 h. All treatments included a 30-h period of feed (milk) withdrawal, and calf responses were measured over time from before their last feed until the completion of the study after the transport and feed withdrawal periods. Apart from increases in serum creatine kinase in calves transported for 12 h, transported calves generally did not differ in blood concentrations of glucose, beta-hydroxybutyrate, lactate, total protein or in packed cell volume, compared with controls (P>0·05). Calf responses to the indirect consignment treatment did not differ from those of other transported calves. Withdrawal of feed for 30 h caused calves to lose 6% of body weight; blood glucose varied from 3·96 mmol/l immediately before daily feeding to 5·46 mmol/l at 3 h post feeding, and then declined to 3·43 mmol/l at 30 h. Calves lay down for 22–32% of the time during transport, and did not show a rebound effect in lying behaviour post arrival in comparison with controls. Best practice transport of 6–12 h duration, including indirect consignment via a holding facility, did not significantly affect calf blood biochemistry and metabolism in comparison with untransported animals. However, extending the time off feed beyond the daily feeding interval resulted in reduced blood glucose concentrations, suggesting that time off feed needs to be carefully managed in young transported dairy calves.