Veal calves are given a milk replacer diet to obtain a so-called "white meat". They are kept inside and mostly reared in individual pens on slatted floor for the whole fattening period. Veal calf production is an 'important sector of animal husbandry, closely related to dairy production. Most of the veal calves slaughtered in the EU come from dairy herds. Currently about 30 million calves are born in the EU each year, 6 million of which are from Holstein cows. These Holsteins are less suitable for beef and are used for veal production. In the EU total veal production exceeds 800 000 tonnes per year and this is about 12 to 15% of total meat production.
Over the last two decades there has been increasing public concern for the welfare of veal calves. Criticism centred on the 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. There have been substantial reductions in veal consumption within the EU in the last 7 to 10 years. Some of this decline is likely to be due to concern about the welfare of animals.
On the other hand many consumers consider veal meat as a high quality product (average consumption per individual in the EU is 2.3 kg). The white colour is perceived by these consumers as indicating that the meat is of a young animal reared on milk products.
Regulations on the welfare of veal calves were ado ted at EU level. EU Council Directive 91/629/EEC lays 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 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. Main objectives are: - To determine the physiological and behavioural responses of young calves to transport and to identify which components of transport can affect welfare. - To study, in veal calves, effects of and interactions between feeding, in particular provision of roughage and water, housing and level of human contact, with regard to welfare and meat quality.
- To assess, in slaughter weight veal calves, effects of previous housing, feeding regime during fattening and short term food deprivation prior to slaughter on meat quality and the ability to cope with transport.
- To investigate, under commercial conditions, effects of stockmanship and management system (feeding regime) on veal calf welfare, performance and meat quality.
This proposal develops an integrated, multidisciplinary project and network, bringing together scientists, fundamental and applied, and industry. The research proposed involves different disciplines: animal behaviour, stress physiology, animal husbandry, animal science, animal nutrition, food science, veterinary '-pathology. The multinational partners all have the necessary expertise in individual areas, but it would be very difficult to provide the same degree and range of expertise from within one country. The involvement of multidisciplinary, multinational strategic and applied research as well as direct industry participation from different countries is the most effective way of conducting the research and guarantees application of the rpcl lltc
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
EH25 9RG Roslin
35020 Legnaro Padova