Knowledge of animal behaviour is crucial to the safeguarding of animal welfare. That is why last year the VanDrie Group organised three regional meetings for members of the Dutch Veal Farmers Association (VVK, Vereniging van Kalverhouders), regional managers and transporters on the subject.
Under the guidance of animal welfare expert Bert Driessen, a discussion was held about improving the procedures related to loading calves into trucks. We want to load them in an even more animal-friendly way and reduce stress. Albert Wouters of the VanDrie Group argues for awareness:
We need to discuss this together more often: veal farmers, transporters and integration.
Every calf husbandry is different. Specific circumstances can play a role in how an animal will react. Is it sunny or raining? Is there a lot of wind, or is it cold? Calves immediately react when they walk from the husbandry to the truck. Albert: “We believe it is important to look at a calf’s character and how it responds to various stimuli. Calves have a different field of vision from people. They have difficulty perceiving depth, see a limited spectrum of colours and have a different viewing angle.”
Sounds and movements distract calves when they walk towards the truck. A loose string, a change of relief in the floor or the whistling of the wind can make animals display anxious behaviour. “The job of loading and unloading calves requires skill and is different every time. No company, veal farmer, transporter or weather situation is the same.”
Calf transport and loading and unloading calves requires skill, experience, and good cooperation between veal farmers and transporters is vital. Consider practicalities such as preparation, the creation of walkways, lighting when loading and unloading and recognising the signals calves give through their behaviour.
“In the end, the calves and their welfare are central to every procedure in our chain. We work together in that chain to ensure that loading and unloading runs as smoothly as possible like everything else, and that animal welfare is safeguarded at all times.”