The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme aims to improve the welfare of as many farm animals as possible by providing an environment that better meets their behavioural needs. The Scheme has recently published animal welfare standards for dairy veal calves.
Key aspects of the Approved Farming Scheme standards for dairy veal calves include:
- Staff that are trained and competent in their required tasks
- Health management and monitoring procedures, including euthanasia
- Calves must be fed good quality colostrum in their first day of life
- Calves must be fed a diet that prevents mineral or vitamin deficiencies
- Calves must be fed milk through a teat feeder to satisfy the behavioural need to suckle
- Calves must be provided with bedding
- Calves must be provided with environmental enrichment materials
- Calves must have access to an outdoor area or paddock from weaning
- Calves must be housed in groups with sufficient space each to enable expression of social and play behaviours
- Calves must be handled calmly and quietly
- Aversive practices such as tethering, disbudding, dehorning, castration, hot iron branding, and nose rings are not permitted
- Calves must be at least 10 days old before they are allowed to be transported and young calves under 8 weeks old require bedding in the transport vehicle
- Calves must have enough room on the transport vehicle to all be able to lie down
- Calves must be humanely slaughtered
Good animal welfare relies on meeting an animal’s physiological needs (for example good health, good nutrition, comfortable housing), good stockpersonship (for example low-stress animal handling), providing for innate behavioural needs (for example, in veal calves, the ability to suckle, chew, ruminate, the company of other calves), and providing the opportunity to have positive experiences (for example through play and locomotor behaviours, through active engagement with their surroundings). Good welfare can be achieved where calves are provided with sufficient space to play in the company of other calves, sufficient quantity of milk to prevent hunger and competition at the feeder, teat feeders to satisfy the need to suckle, and roughage to promote chewing and rumination and express foraging behaviour, and bedding to allow for thermal comfort as well as nesting.
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