• Veal Crates in Ohio

    Posted on March 3, 2011 by in Agvocate, Farm, livestock care

    My purpose here is not to defend one form of farming over the other; in fact I know several farmers in Ohio that use different styles and use good management to make sure their calves are well cared for.  I personally have no stake in the veal industry.

    In November of 2009 Ohio citizens voted for a proposition that would create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB) that would be responsible for creating and enforcing correct livestock care guidelines for farmers within the state.  Since then a lot of volunteers from all walks of life have been working endlessly investigating research and debating the pro’s and con’s of different animal handling practices.

    One of the biggest debates happening with OLCSB members and volunteers has been over proper animal care for veal calves.  Ohio is not the first state to have this discussion.

    • In 1992, when the California Legislature was considering legislating veal housing by eliminating current Best Management Practices, they turned to their Land Grant University for the answers to the question “What is best for the Animal?”. UC Davis and Carolyn Stull did the research study and determined that the Individual Tethered Stall served as the best overall system for the young Bovine. As a result of this study, the CA Legislature took no action to eliminate this system.
    • In 2003, the NJ Legislature considered legislation to ban the practice of tethering Veal calves and include the feeding of “digestible fiber”. NJ in kind, turned to their Land Grant University for the answers concerning these practices. Rutgers University’s, Dr.Westendorf reviewed and compiled all of the research data detailing the benefits of the Individual Stall System and finding negligible detrimental behaviors in the calves from the use of this System. The NJ Legislature took this information and endorsed the AVA 2001 Calf Care Guidelines as the NJ “Standard” for Veal housing.

    Outside of the livestock care board The Humane Society of The United States, an animal

    Veal Calves in Individual Pens

    rights group, have also been in a game of politics with several farm groups and government officials in an effort to persuade the board’s decision.   June 30th these groups reached a 10 part agreement on animal husbandry practices, supporting the work of OLCSB, and jointly fund and investigate new research on animal husbandry practices.  According to the agreement farmers producing veal would have to adapt to a complete group housing system by 2017.

    Because OLCSB members are bound to an ethical responsibility to adopt animal care standards that are best suited for the farmer and animal and looking at the previous research conducted within the United States I was not surprised when the OLCSB was unable to adopt the suggestions put forth by the agreement between the past governor, HSUS, and Ohio Farm groups.

    To back up a little, currently small independent veal farmers in Ohio are finding themselves in a tough situation.  Over their lifetime they have invested in equipment and facilities to properly care for their calves to sell to their customers.  Most of these farmers have been unwilling to invest in facilities that would allow their calves to socialize because of problems with calves sucking on ears, navels and drinking urine that can drastically decrease the health of the calf and increase the percentages of deaths on their farms.  Due to this and the overwhelming cost to renovate their barns nearly all the independently family owned veal farms in Ohio have signed an affidavit stating that they will no longer be able to raise veal calves in Ohio if forced to conform to group pens by 2017

    It is always possible that past research is one sided or biased, or even outdated.  This is a perfect opportunity to take up the Humane Society on their agreement to work with Farm groups to “examine and jointly fund independent research projects and studies to identify best practices and to work for the highest farm animal care and welfare standards. If assistance of a third party is needed they will jointly agree on a representative to help in these discussion”. Since these groups are diametrically opposed in their viewpoints the findings should be both neutral and current.  The Ohio Livestock care board should then have the opportunity to evaluate these findings and give adequate amount of time for veal farmers to adopt to the new standards that they adopt.





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  • http://royalaffiliateclub.co.cc Greg

    I like the idea, well done!

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  • http://na aussiedogs4life@gmail.com

    I’m sorry, but I do not understand how the HSUS can manipulate our government officials to the point that ‘their’ (HSUS) ‘guidelines’ have to be adhered to. HSUS is out to rid us of our farmer’s livelyhood; stop us from enjoying our mainstay (meat), and rid us of our companion animals. When are State governments going to stand up for what is right and say ‘NO’ to the HSUS?

    • http://flavors.me/farmerhaley Mike Haley

      Well as I see it they think they are quite good at it. The veal standards are not rule in Ohio yet as they have to go through a public comment period and JCARR. Instead, they feel they are above the board in Ohio and instead of going through the process that Ohioans overwhelmingly voted for they have threatened to spend millions of dollars collecting signatures again to place another measure on the ballot (source Farm Sanctuary)

  • Marcus

    Great piece of writing, Mike! Very well researched! The biggest problem I see is to bring together hard-fact science with personal values. From that standpoint, the decision by the LSB was a compromise – it valued factual science, but left every costumer the choice of what kind of veal (if any, but not much better than a wiener schnitzel!) to buy.

    • http://flavors.me/farmerhaley Mike Haley


      You are partially correct. The boards decision does not mean that veal farmers can continue operating the way they always have. If accepted veal farmers will no longer be able to tether calves, and after the calves are 10 weeks old they must be moved to a group pen. This decision will allow a little more room for veal farmers to adapt than the HSUS compromise, but will most definately still result in several farmers making the decision to find work off the farm because costs to improve in such a short period will not be economically viable to them.

  • http://www.walkinginhighcotton.net Jamie (@va_grown)

    Goes to show there’s just never an easy answer.

    I do view some Land Grant research skeptically because they tend to take a somewhat limited view in comparing alternatives. For a hypothetical example–comparing confinement feeding to set stock grazing. It’s interesting research, but clearly the results are skewed because set stock grazing is poor grass management. A better study would be to compare confinement to an intense rotational grazing system or a mob stocking rotational system.

    But I’m not saying all their work is bad or anything. I’m just saying that I usually read their work very carefully and look to see how many truly alternative systems they’re evaluating before investing in their answers. There are a lot of things out there that are definitely working out there, that never make it into research work. There’s so many variables to consider when setting up research like that!

    • http://flavors.me/farmerhaley Mike Haley

      Thanks Jamie! I find it interesting that you mention mob grazing, I just recently learned about it and it really intrigues me. Like you said farmers always need to be looking at what they can do better, and for the most part I think this happens, for sure on my farm 😉