The calf itself is our starting point. Animal health and animal welfare is therefore of paramount importance. Handling the calves with respect is a responsibility that veal farmers gladly take on. Learning from and with each other is key to this!
The healthy rearing of calves requires knowledge and commitment. Whether it’s making a few extra rounds through the calf stable during the young calves’ initial period at the farm, extra attention to any calves that might be developing a little slower, consultation with the vet about the implementation of the farm health plan: every veal farmer is committed in his or her own way to animal health and animal welfare in our chain.
As the calves grow up, the moment they are collected approaches. In Holten in Overijssel, veal farm Schakel has already raised and delivered several pairs of calves. The farm was busier than usual last week when the calves were collected.
Local veal farmers had gathered at the farm in Holten on the three mornings that the calves were set to leave the stable of Schakel veal farm. Under the guidance of Dr. Bert Driessen, an expert in the field of animal welfare, knowledge sessions were held on ensuring animal welfare during the loading of calves. Veal farmers Mechiel and Neel Schakel explain: "Under the motto with each other, for each other, the aim of these meetings is to raise awareness among one another that the loading of calves can be improved through a number of changes."
The mornings featured a varied programme, during which calf-specific behaviour was discussed during the session. Knowledge of animal behaviour is after all crucial to the safeguarding of animal welfare, particularly during transport. Calves have a different field of vision than humans. They have difficulty perceiving depth, only see a limited spectrum of colours and have a different viewing angle. Sounds and movements distract calves. During loading, the herd behaviour of the calves can actually be used, by approaching them correctly through closed walled, obstacle-free corridors.
The practical situation is analysed by the farmers at veal farm Schakel, with this knowledge in the mind. No calf stable is the same and comparing the method and design of calf stables is essential. Schakel veal farm looked critically at its stables, too. Based on previously gained insights in the field of animal welfare, various adjustments were made to remove stress factors.
[Header] We believe it is important to keep both the health and welfare of our calves at the highest possible level. To do so, we must keep learning from each other.- Veal farmer Mechiel Schakel [Header]
For example, the walking route from the group housing to the truck is designed with ‘closed walls’. Schakel: “Closed walls, unlike fences with bars, provide a quiet environment without distractions for the calves. It is highly recommended. We have observed that the calves prefer it. It is wonderful to see how, with knowledge of animal behaviour, these types of adjustments also show a positive result in practice!”
Neel Schakel continues: “That is the point of these meetings: to raise awareness among one another that, for example, a few tweaks to the stable can improve loading and unloading and transport. Sometimes these tweaks are surprisingly minor! ” Something that works perfectly at one veal farm may not necessarily work for other veal farmers. By facilitating knowledge sessions and talking to each other, we encourage veal farmers, transporters and regional managers to learn from each other and to permanently improve animal welfare.
After three informative mornings, things are calm again at the Holten veal farm. With renewed knowledge and insights, everyone is eager to apply this in their daily work. In the temporarily empty stable, veal farmer Mechiel Schakel reflects on three successful mornings. He says: “We believe it is important to keep both the health and welfare of our calves at the highest possible level. To do so, we must keep learning from each other, and this is only possible if we look at things from multiple angles. In this case that of veal farmer, transporter and regional manager. We are happy to contribute to this and are still learning from it ourselves!”