Previously I wrote a blog about the proposed standards that the Ohio Livestock Care Board (OLCSB) made for veal crates in Ohio. As I mentioned in my previous post the OLCSB faced several challenges in making a decision and arrived at a conclusion with a narrow vote that would allow veal farmers to house veal calves in individual pens until they were 10 weeks old, at that time they must be moved to a group pen where they can socialize with other calves and freely turn around.
Because the proposed veal standards would not allow calves to turn around for the first 10 weeks the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) immediately threatened the OLCSB that they would begin collecting signatures from Ohio citizens in order to override the decision the OLCSB made if it became final.
Several Ohio veal farmers assert that the proposed standards would allow them to better care for each individual calf’s needs and decrease the amount of illness’s associated with group housing of calves due to licking and cross-sucking of navels and ears. It will also for better individual care and eliminate issue of dominance behaviors such as excessive competition for feed when compared to the alternative veal crates proposed by the Humane Society of the United States. Unfortunately though, the cost to convert to the alternative type of housing would be costly. With the added threat of HSUS initiating a costly ballot campaign that would force them to pay to convert to another type of system in the future, the risk of having to make multiple investments in succession is just too much to take.
I recently read in The Ohio Country Journalthat:
On March 18, members of the veal subcommittee who made recommendations to the OLCSB that were opposed to what the Board eventually passed, sent a letter to the Board. In the letter, they basically stated that since it would not be economically practical for veal producers to convert their barns to group housing and “no turn around” stalls by the end of 2017, and because there would be minimal advantages to production and economics, the Board should just go ahead and reinstate the “turn around” language back into the proposed rules.
“We remain concerned about the impact to our calves and veal producers with the proposed changes, with or without the turnaround language,” the veal subcommittee members said in the letter.
The article then goes on to address additional issues in the proposal, including the tight deadline for compliance, that would potentially jeopardize smaller independent family veal farms in the state:
At the same time, the relatively short time period for transitioning to group pens, the end of 2017, is a concern.
“We are greatly concerned with the brevity of the arbitrary deadline for the proposed transition. The producers need sufficient time to more fully amortize their current capital investment in facilities and equipment before making additional capital investment in an unproven model,” the letter said.
With those things in mind, to me it seems a good compromise on April 5 would be sticking with the standards as they were originally proposed in November, but extending the transition period further down the road to lessen the economic impact of facility conversions. As it is now, Dec. 31, 2017, is just six years away. In similar OLCSB standards for poultry, existing layer hen facilities were allowed to remain in use indefinitely, and only new facilities would need to adopt new housing standards. For hogs, the transition period was extended out 15 years, the projected lifespan of a new gestation barn built the year the standards were established, so by the time new facilities were required, the old ones would be worn out and need replaced anyway. The projected lifespan of a new veal facility with current housing practices is 12 years.
I am left with a few questions, why force farmers to adopt to a new unproven practice when science supports what they are already practicing and the marketplace is willing to support that type of practice. Furthurmore I question whether veal farmers should consider HSUS demands simply because they believe that the alternative method provided by the OLCSB would not be of much benefit to them or their calves. However I am convinced that in order to create a sustainable environment for Ohio farmers they need adequate time to adapt to new standards that they are mandated to follow.