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Dedicated to Calf Care and Continuous Improvement

Veal Calf Veterinarian.jpg

By Dale Bakke
AVA President

Starting as a young boy and through college, I had the opportunity to work on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. I watched and observed the dedication my neighbor invested into his farm and caring for the cows we milked and the calves we raised. I had my share of questions and suggestions for how we did things back then. Often, the neighbor’s wisdom and experience outweighed some of my ideas.  Other times, my neighbor and mentor appreciated the new insight. 

Continuous improvement is core to those who farm and raise livestock. It is something I have always valued and I see in our association members today.  Member companies and farms who raise veal reached a milestone as 2018 began when they achieved the transition to group-housing for veal calves over ten weeks of age. Today, there are a variety of different facilities to house veal calves in groups ranging from two up to groups of ten or more. These facilities allow for the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which is the international standard for assessing expression of normal behavior in animals. 

“The health and well-being of the calves has been and will continue to be a priority,” said calf veterinarian, Dr. Marissa Hake. “Newborn calves need special attention to grow and thrive. It was important that the desire to move calves to group pens did not sacrifice the need for individual care and attention. We found calves individually penned for the first 8-10 weeks is still optimal for calf health, just as is standard in heifer and beef raising.”

Continuous improvement and innovation to do what’s right and best for the calves entrusted to our care is at the heart of the veal farmers and industry leaders I know. That’s why I was personally disheartened to learn about the video released by an animal rights activist organization this week – for two reasons: First -- Animal abuse is never acceptable. Second – AVA-member company, Midwest Veal LLC is depicted in the video with one of their remaining outdated nursery facilities for newborn calves. Unfortunately, how veal calves are raised today is not accurately reflected in the video.  Additionally, it does not represent the values and dedication I know to be true of Midwest Veal. They are a family company who has a history of dedication and continuous improvement for the veal calves they raise.

I encourage you to read Midwest Veal’s full statement here.

I invite you to continue to visit our website.  Watch our video Meet America's Veal Farmers. Ask questions. We are open for dialog. And like my experience with my neighbor, be open minded and respectful of the wisdom and knowledge in the explanations for how and why we do what we do to raise healthy veal calves. That has and will continue to be our top priority.

This incident is also a very unfortunate reminder to our veal farmers to be very cautious towards those who want to work on our farms. In rural America it is our nature to trust people, and while we will continue to believe the best in people, thorough training and supervision must continue to ensure the same values we have for our animals are practiced in the actions of those who work on our farms. For additional information on the Veal Quality Assurance program visit the Veal Farm website.

TDF Honest Farming Features Veal Farming

hake main photo.jpg
Click image to watch video.

Click image to watch video.

Veterinarian Marissa Hake was a guest on a Facebook Live event that shared an inside look at veal farming. The event was hosted on TDF Honest Farming, a page by Tillamook Dairy Farmer Derrick Josi that provides an authentic portrayal of modern farming practices.

Dr. Hake provides care to about 30,000 veal calves in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. The first video was at a starter veal barn that housed young calves.

In the next video, she visited a farm that was home to older calves who would be going to market in a few weeks. The tour included an explanation of the group pens, the barn flooring, ventilation and feed.

The videos generated numerous comments. Many people were surprised by what they saw and pleased to learn about veal farming.

Click image to watch video.

Click image to watch video.

“This was very interesting to me. I cannot believe how clean the calves are and look very happy.”

“Have to say I still thought veal calves were raised in tlghtless barns chained in tight narrow stalls. I am so glad to see the practice has changed to a much more humane style.”

Dr. Hake created a follow-up video to answer a question several people had asked about why veal calves are kept inside.

 Another video presented facts about veal.

Video Showcases American Veal toDay

 The American Veal Association has changed the way milk-fed veal is raised today.
Come visit our farms and meet AVA members through this new video --
American Veal Today

 How are veal calves raised today?  Where are they raised?  What do veal calves eat?  Are veal calves anemic, tethered and raised in crates?  The American Veal Association’s new video answers these questions and many more about milk-fed veal.  The video features AVA members and farmers including veterinarian, Dr. Marissa Hake, and nutritionist, Dr. Sonia Arnold, who provide specific details about the health and nutrition of raising milk-fed veal today.

 The video provides a look inside modern veal barns where calves are raised in group pens, not crates and never tethered. Calves can stand, stretch, lie down, turn around, groom naturally and have contact with others calves in comfortable, clean environments. These new facilities enable the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which are the international standard for assessing expression of normal behavior in animals, to be practiced.

AVA President, Dale Bakke, talks about sustainability in the video and the interrelationship veal has with both the dairy and beef industries. Milk-fed veal is raised in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.

 The AVA invites you to learn more about raising milk-fed veal through this new video,  American Veal Today