Veal Calf Production

8 Steps to Successful Production of Veal

Dutch farm for veal production

A farm for 650 veal calves and 100 beef bulls

Veal calf production is an excellent use for the excess bull dairy calves created by the industry. It is a profitable, yet somewhat difficult, part of cattle growing and selling. For veal calves to remain healthy and grow to the proper weight necessary for consumption, special measures must be taken and proper care techniques must be understood.

This is necessary for these young animals to flourish and produce their pale, velvety meat. Follow these 8 no-fail steps to successful veal production, and you will be able to have a flourishing veal operation!

Step 1 Protect that Abomasum!

Veal calves are primarily those dairy calves that are bulls and are thus not usable in the milking industry. These small animals should be allowed to consume colostrum, at least 6 quarts, before being moved to the veal production facility. Colostrum is key to the good health of the calf for the next 18 to 20 weeks in which it will be growing, prior to consumption.

An all-milk diet, usually made up of a calf milk replacer (CMR) product, keeps the flesh of the calf tender and pale in color. Their stomach stays in its “pre-rumen” stage, with an abomasum for digestion. Beef and dairy calves that are allowed to consume other, non-milk feeds, such as grain, hay and grasses, develop their rumen, as adult cows have. Due to this fermentative digestive process, their meat becomes a darker hue, and is changed in flavor and texture.

Step 2 Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition!

The nutrition of solely milk-fed animals is of the utmost importance, as there are no other feed products helping these calves acquire the nutrients they need. It is important to pick a healthy calf that was allowed enough colostrum intake, and had a good birth weight (preferably over 90 pounds). However,  the calf milk replacer fed to the animal in its feed period is what has the greatest effect on the success of your veal production.

A calf milk replacer product that is high in fat and protein will most successfully produce the tastiest, most tender, and palest meat in the correct length of time. The starter calf milk replacer, on which days-old calves are fed, should have at least 20% protein, and no less than 16% fat.

As the calves grow, the protein can be slightly less, but the fat content should remain the same, or increase slightly, to “finish” the calf for market, and fatten it quickly as the production period draws to a close.

Step 3 Consumer Cultivation!

In order to have a truly quality veal calf for market, it must maintain its pale, tender, and delicate-flavored flesh throughout the entire 18 to 20 week growing period. Consumers who are interested in consuming veal want good quality, properly conditioned flesh without any fat marbling or toughness. The lighter the color, the better.

Make sure you have a ready market for your veal as well, and let this buyer know, through good, consistent production, that you know what you are doing and can manufacture that in-demand, superior meat.

Step 4 Avoid Problems and Enjoy Success in Production!

Veal calves in the industry are generally kept inside in climate-controlled buildings for their approximately four months of growth, and fed a diet of calf milk replacer. These conditions, while crucial for the production of delicious pinkish meat, can easily sprout epidemic-level disease and health problems for the calves when managed incorrectly.

For example, bacteria, feeding too much milk or calf milk replacer, or damage to the cells lining the stomach can cause the calf to develop scours. Anemia is another issue, resulting from a diet that is low in iron and other necessary vitamins and minerals; a careful evaluation of your milk product is crucial for success.

Step 5 Feeding 101!

Product in equal’s product out, especially in veal production. The quality and finesse with which you feed your calves will result in the quality of meat you create. In order for the calves to remain healthy and grow into tasty, tender veal meat, they must have fresh, properly prepared calf milk replacer at routine intervals throughout the day.

A lack of sanitation or regularity in feeding is an ideal place for disease-causing bacteria and other dirges to good production, to develop! Calf milk replacer should be mixed with hot water (150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit) to break down fat solids and allow product to thoroughly mix into, and dissolve with, the water.

After mixing, cold water should be added until the desired temperature, around 110 degrees Fahrenheit is reached, and then feeding can occur. All equipment and items used to mix, transfer, and feed the calves must be rinsed, washed, rinsed again, and sanitized, at each and every feeding.

Step 6 Good Housing  is Key to Healthy and Humane Veal Production!

Calves need room to stand, lay down, and move about, but frequently the large numbers of calves in production make it difficult to grant each calf its required space. Each animal should be granted a place that will house it comfortable and draft free.

That’s why more and more modern veal calves farmers have housed their calves in wider stalls or group pens. This way, the calves have a reduced risk of diseases, allow for better air-flow and ventilation, and ensure humane production of veal.  A floor made of wooden slats, or plastic-coated metal should be used to keep the calves dry as well.

Step 7 Buy the Best, You Won’t Regret It!

Buying the proper supplies and equipment for your veal production facility not only sets you up for success, but also allows you to more easily and healthfully operate. Good quality milk replacer and a clean water supply are obvious, but just as important are properly ventilated and insulated buildings, clean and dry pens, reliable and aware staff, and clean equipment in good repair.

Step 8 Avoid Scours, Avoid Waste!

Pathogens (or disease-causing germs) such as Rota virus, E. coli, corona virus, and Cryptosporidium parvum all cause scours in calves, though the animals may acquire them in different ways. Another reason for bovines to have the rampant diarrhea is poor nutrition, such as through feeding too much milk or calf milk replacer.

This causes the milk to ferment in the animal’s gut, or causes damage to the cells lining the stomach. The result is poor absorption of nutrients, and causing the calf to become thin, unhealthy, and to develop scours. No matter the cause of this ill, prompt treatment is vital in order to save the calves from severe dehydration and certain death.

Veal calf manufacturing, when done correctly, is an excellent use for the large numbers of bull calves produced by the milk industry each year. When a proper market is developed, it can be a lucrative 4-month process of production. Careful attention to details such as proper nutrition, cleanliness, sanitation, and avoidance of disease allow you to create a profitable product from a previously under-used commodity. To learn more about other successful steps to a profitable veal calf production, click here.


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