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Towards effective welfare monitoring on Dutch veal farms. Using welfare assessment data for advising farmers - Marike Cappon

The aim of this study was to contribute to the effectiveness of welfare monitoring on Dutch veal farms, by studying the results of the welfare assessments and getting insight in the advisor’s and veal farmer’s experiences with and opinions about the project.

In the Netherlands there are two types of veal production: white veal production and pink veal production. In both systems, calves are faced with a number of health and behaviour problems.

In 2005-2009, an on-farm welfare monitor was developed for veal calves, which is currently tried to implement in practice. Welfare assessments are carried out by independent assessors, and data are analyzed and interpreted by researchers. The results are used by advisors to give farmers advice about how to improve veal calf welfare by taking remedial measures on their farms.

The aim of this study was to contribute to the effectiveness of welfare monitoring on Dutch veal farms, by studying the results of the welfare assessments and getting insight in the advisor’s and veal farmer’s experiences with and opinions about the project.

Data was collected of 56 veal farms (41 white, 15 pink). The on-farm monitor consisted of behaviour, health and pathology indicators, recorded both on-farm and at the slaughterhouse. To help interpretation, the assessment results were compared against threshold values, which were based on data of the project that run from 2005-2009. It was studied if benchmarking could assist in giving an interpretation as well. Insights in the advisor’s and veal farmer’s experiences and opinions was obtained by attending nine advisory consultations on white veal farms and interviewing the corresponding farmers some weeks after this consultation.

Comparing the assessments of white and pink veal farms, showed that pink veal farms had mainly respiratory problems and white veal farms mainly digestion and behavioural problems; e.g. the prevalence (median) of rumen plaques was 68.3% on white, compared to 1.7% on pink veal farms. Furthermore, in 2013-2014 the outcomes were higher for many welfare indicators than in 2007-2009, indicating a reduced welfare in time. This might be due to restrictions in antibiotic use and different feed management.  

Observations of the advisory consultations showed that advisors were not consistent in their advising. The farmers stated in the interviews that they were positive generally about the project and were motivated to improve calf welfare. Though they would like to know more about some welfare indicators. It is therefore recommended to develop an advising tool, including benchmarking, for both farmers and advisors. Next to this training sessions need to be organized for the advisors to teach them how to be a good advisor and to provide a more in-depth knowledge about welfare issues.


Student: MA Cappon

Supervisors: dr ir E Bokkers, dr ir K van Reenen

36 Ects