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The chain management of veal calf welfare

Contract nr: FAIR-CT96-2049
Project nr: 2049
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/01/1997
Duration: 42 months
Total cost: 2,439,250 EUR
EC Contribution: 1,785,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Lucia PENA ALBERDI
Research topic: Animal welfare

Veal calves are given a milk replacer diet to obtain so-called 'white meat'. They are kept inside and mostly reared in individual pens on a slatted floor for the whole fattening period. Veal calf production is an important sector of animal husbandry, closely related to dairy production. Over the last two decades there has been increasing public concern for the welfare of veal calves. Criticism centred on small space allowance per calf, no social contact, the barren environment in which the calves are kept, the denial of roughage and the low haemoglobin levels which are maintained to produce the white meat. Regulations on the welfare of veal calves have been adopted at the EU level, with Council Directive 91/629/EEC laying down minimum standards for the protection of calves. Recently, the Commission proposed amendments to the Directive in respect of housing and space allowances. The Commission also intends to adopt amendments to the provisions of the annex to the Directive related to several other aspects of the welfare of calves, including the provision of roughage and daily fresh drinking water.

The ultimate goal of this project is to identify management strategies in the veal calf production chain, within the terms of present and new EU regulations, to improve veal calf welfare and at the same time to produce a meat quality in conformity with market demands. In the research, interactions between different factors in the production chain are being studied in detail with regard to their consequences for welfare and meat quality. Emphasis will be placed on the following factors in the veal calf production chain: transport (both at an early age to the rearing unit, and, at the end of fattening, to the slaughter house), housing, feeding and stockmanship. On the basis of comprehensive knowledge about relations and interactions between these factors, integrative management strategies will be proposed.

The following detailed objectives (tasks) will be fulfilled:
1) determination of physiological and behavioural responses of young calves to transport;
2) evaluation of the effects of various roughages, added to the milk replacer diet of veal calves, on welfare (behaviour, physiological measures, pathology of digestive organs) and meat quality;
3) determination of effects of provision of water to veal calves, with or without roughage in the diet, on welfare and meat quality;
4) investigation of the interaction between housing system of veal calves and feeding of roughage;
5) assessment of the effect of extra human contact on welfare of veal calves with different levels of social contact;
6) study of the effects on slaughter-weight calves, of loading and unloading, a three-hour road journey and space allowance during transport on meat quality and the ability to cope with transport;
7) determination of effects of food deprivation prior to slaughter on behavioural and physiological responses to transport;
8) investigation of stockmanship effects (farmers'attitudes and practices) on the welfare of veal calves and interactions with effects of transport on meat quality;
9) comparison of performance, technical results and meat quality of veal calves reared in different management systems adopting welfare friendly feeding regimes;
The feasibility of suggested feeding regimes will be evaluated in large scale trials on commercial veal operations.

Current situation/results:
Task 1. Experimental work has been completed. In 1999 some additional statistical analyses of the results were undertaken. The identification of optimal space allowances, and the determination of the effect of duration of lairage during transport on the physiological and behavioural responses of young calves have been achieved.
Task 2, 3, 4 Experiments have been completed. Data-analyses is in progress. Roughages that permit rumen development, reduce abnormal behaviours, and give good meat quality have been identified.
Task 5. The final (fourth) batch of the main experiment within this task was completed by the end of 1999. Data are currently being statistically analysed.
Task 6. Experimental work has been completed, data analyses are in progress.
Task 7. Experimental work has been completed. Calves were studied in two subsequent batches. Blood samples were taken around transport. Laboratory assays and data analyses are in progress.
Task 8. Actual observations for the second part of the study started in June 1998. The experimental work was completed in February 1999. Results will be available at the beginning of 2000.
Task 9. Experiments with some 1000 calves (half the total number involved in this task) started in September 1998. A second replicate of this experiment with another 1000 calves started in October 1999. These calves will be slaughtered in April/May 2000.

Institute for animal science and health (ID-Lelystad)
Edelhertweg 15
NL-8219 PH Lelystad
Tel.: +31 320 23 82 38
Fax: +31 320 23 82 08


  • Michael Stanley COCKRAM
    University of Edinburgh
    Veterinary Field Station - Easter Bush
    UK-EH25 9RG Roslin
    Tel.: +44 1316 50 62 72
    Fax: +44 1316 50 65 88

  • Isabelle VEISSIER
    I.N.R.A. - Centre Clermont-Ferrand-Theix
    F-63122 Saint-Genes-Champanelle
    Tel.: +33 4 73 62 40 98
    Fax: +33 4 73 62 41 18

    Università degli studi di Padova
    AGRIPOLIS - Via Romea
    I-35020 Legnaro (Padova)
    Tel.: +39 04 98 27 26 62
    Fax: +39 04 98 27 26 69

  • Markus PYYKKÖNEN
    Maatalouden Tutkimuskeskus (Agricultural Research Centre of Finland)
    Vakolantie 55
    FIN-03400 Vihti
    Tel: +358 92 24 25 211
    Fax: +358 92 24 62 10
    E-mail: markus.pyykö


  • Jacob L. DE GROOT
    JHR. DR. C. J.Sandbergweg 5-7
    P.O. BOX 3050
    NL-3850 CB Ermelo
    Tel.: +31 577 40 99 11
    Fax: +31 577 40 92 39

    Denkavit Nederland B.V.
    Tolnegenweg 65
    NL-3781 PV Voorthuizen
    Tel.: +31 342 47 92 00
    Fax: +31 342 47 45 15

  • Jac MEIJS
    Research Station for Cattle, Sheep and Horse Husbandry Foundation
    Runderweg 6
    NL-8219 PK Lelystad
    Tel.: +31 320 29 34 17
    Fax: +31 320 24 15 84

    Tendriade Elevage SA
    Avenue Quentin Migliorettit
    F-44145 Chateaubriant
    Tel.: +33 2 40 55 62 66
    Fax: +33 2 40 28 1614

  • Arnaldo LONGHI
    Realvit ItaliA spa
    Giovanni Chiassi 103
    I-46100 Mantova
    Tel.: +39 03 09 03 09 90
    Fax: +39 03 09 03 18 18

  • Marina VERGA
    Università degli studi di Milano
    Via Celoria 10
    I-20133 Milano
    Tel.: +39 2 236 94 24
    Fax: +39 2 706 02 27
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