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Farming veal

Veal farming (calves).

Veal farming

A new born calf will typically weigh between 40 to 50kg. Achieving an early and adequate intake of colostrum (the first milk produced by the calf’s mother following calving) is the single most important management factor in determining calf health and performance. Colostrum is rich in energy and protein but more importantly, with immunoglobulins (antibodies which provide the calf with passive immunity). The priority with new born calves is ensuring that they suckle and drink at least 2 litres of colostrum within the first six hours of life, with up to 8 litres within the first 24 hours.

In traditional beef systems the calf will stay with the beef cow for around 8-10 months before it is weaned and transferred for fattening. During this time the cow and calf will normally be grazing outside, either on grass or on a forage crop like kale. Hay and silage will be supplemented as required. In winter months when conditions worsen the animals may be brought in to large open barns and fed on conserved fodder, typically grass silage.

Animals supplied for beef production from the beef herd tend to be borne of beef cows that suckle the calf for between 7 and 10 months. After weaning the calves are finished through a variety of feeding systems. Farmers who run suckler beef herds tend to finish their animals through more extensive feeding systems.

Veal farming

Beef calves that have come from the dairy herd, either as pure bred bull calves (Holstein) or as cross breds (Limousin cross Holstein for example) will usually be brought into the beef system at around one week of age. These animals will be bucket fed on milk replacer and may be housed individually or in groups (see calf housing and health). They are usually weaned when the calf is eating about 1kg of concentrates per day. This is usually between 6 and 8 weeks of age when it is between 55-65kg. Following weaning, concentrates continue to be offered ad-libitum together with grass, hay or straw and by 12 weeks old the calf is usually weighing between 90 to 110kg. From here differing feeding systems can be adopted by the farmer for the fattening and finishing of the calf.

Veal farming