Rules put Ohio veal industry in jeopardy, some producers say

Note: To read about the standards discussed at this meeting, which were advanced for public comment, click here.

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Half of the state’s veal production could end by the close of 2017, according to a petition presented to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board Feb. 22.

Bob Cochrell, a veal farmer from Ohio’s Wayne County and a member of the veal subcommittee, presented a petition signed by more than 30 veal farmers who say they “do not anticipate continuing to raise veal in the state of Ohio” after 2017, if the current draft of veal regulations is made a rule.

According to the petition, those who signed represent more than 23,000 head of veal marketed in Ohio each year. According to a Driscoll & Fleeter study, about 46,500 calves were raised for veal in 2009, with a total market value just under $29 million.

Conflicting issue

The controversy stems from actions last fall, when the board weighed conflicting recommendations on the use of calf confinement and tethering.

The veal subcommittee held at least eight meetings in 2010, ultimately deciding on a set of recommendations that allowed tethering of veal calves after 2017, for the calf’s first 10 weeks of age, to prevent cross suckling of other calves’ navels and to reduce manure and urine contamination, as well as calf mortality.

Background

Those recommendations were presented to the board Nov. 2, alongside an “alternate” set of recommendations, compiled by staff at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The “alternate” plan included several alternate housing mandates, including additional spacing requirements and allowing enough space for calves of all ages to turn around, after the close of 2017.

The issue

The board did not vote on either recommendation during the November meeting, but adopted two “concepts” requiring veal calves under 10 weeks of age to be able to turn around, and to require veal calves 10 weeks and older to be housed in groups of at least two animals per pen, with enough space to turn themselves around.

The concepts essentially ban stall confinement and tethering as a production practices.

Ken and Betty McCullough of Mount Victory, Ohio, are among the farmers who signed the petition.

Ken has been raising veal for more than 30 years — long enough to see the group housing experiments of the 1980s — which he said were not successful.

He told Farm and Dairy the stall system makes economic sense, and also is best for the calves. He’s willing to look at new methods, but wants something that’s proven and keeps the farm going for his son’s generation.

“I don’t mind being tied down to do a good job, but I’m not going to have my hands tied behind me,” he said.

Leave Ohio?

McCullough fears if tethering and stall confinement are not upheld in Ohio, the industry will move elsewhere.

“There’s other states that you could raise veal calves like this that’s no problem,” he said. “You can relocate, and that’s probably what would happen.”

Ohio Veal Association President Jim Johnston of Kidron, Ohio, also signed the petition.

“The way that they (opponents) want to stop us from raising calves is the way that we’ve been doing it for a very long time,” he said, adding, ” I think it’s better for the calf and it’s better for the producer.”

“(The signees) and myself would ask that you consider and discuss this unanimous recommendation at your next meeting,” Cochrell said at the livestock care board meeting.

The Humane Society of the United States and Ohio Veterinary Medical Association have both cast approval for the ODA’s “alternate” set of recommendations, which they said in November, is more in line with American Veal Association’s call for group housing after 2017.

Supports subcommittee

However, a letter signed by AVA President Chip Lines-Burgess pledges full approval for what the veal subcommittee is recommending.

Lines-Burgess wrote: “On behalf of the American Veal Association, I write to express our support for the veal standards approved by the Ohio Veal Subcommittee after weeks of deliberative consideration. We do so because we believe they are based on science and proven best practices. …”

The letter encourages veal farmers to transition to group housing, but also cites the viability of both methods, including the need for intervention when group housing is used.

“While we estimate that 35 percent of veal calves now are raised in group settings, group housing systems present challenges in veal calf care and management that require continued innovation and refinement to ensure that the health and well-being of the calves are best maintained,” Lines-Burgess wrote.

Next meeting

The care board is scheduled to review its veal standards in rule form during its March 1 meeting. Veal was one of the first standards the board considered, but voting has mostly been tabled to this point.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

8 Comments

  1. Grace Sullivan says:

    Veal crates and tethering are dying practices. Move your businesses to another state, and you’ll soon need to move again. Consumers are having their eyes opened to these cruel methods and don’t support them. I for one won’t be eating the McCulloughs’ veal.

    I wish these dissenters would listen to the AVA, read the science, and get the dollar signs out of their eyes and take a good look at what they’re doing. It’s wrong, plain and simply.

  2. Veal is the meat industrsy’s black-eye. Who wants to eat abused baby animals? American’s eat less than a pound per year, at that rate, I think they should begin to rethink their entire business anyways.

  3. Tom says:

    The Veal Farmers have the Ohio Farm Bureau to thank Mr. Jack Fisher and the other Farm Bureau leaders for not having a Back Bone LOOK OUT CHICKEN FARMER YOUR NEXT MONTH

  4. FED-UP &PO'd farmer says:

    And yet another give-in to the animal rights communist crowd. Sadly, this Livestock careboard has not followed the original purpose of using scientific fact instead of personal emotions-they should be completely disbanded and terminated. ALL scientific evidence points to healthier calves individually stalled/tied. Since it is a fact that calves eat on one end-crap on the other, and dont give a thought as to where or what they crap on, it is hands down easier and less expensive to prevent them from crapping on each other, their food/water, and their bedding they lie in. So little profit is made from veal that EVERY cost-cutting method needs to be used-and for those who think farmers get rich from raising livestock-I assure you that there are NO farmers any where close to being on the Forbes 500 list. The truth is that, like human babies, calves sleep most of the time-but that is where the similarities end. Calves are NOT children-they are food animals,raised strickly for food. They do NOT need to interact with one another-that purpose is to ready them for life in the herd and establish a pecking order-and these calves will never make it to a herd setting…they are food.
    The solution is so simple and has been in place since the start of this country…let consumers purchase what type of veal they want, and let the past existing animal cruelties law punish those who truely abuse animals. Veal calves are VERY pampered, as all livestock. If not cared for, they will not produce, and farmers would not be able to exist. In NO way, shape or form are veal calves abused-PERIOD!!!! The pathetically sad part is that all these people who are trying to force veal farmers out dont even eat veal-never have,never will.
    As I said before, this government intrusion on farmers is the start of a communist long-term goal of preparing people to allow government control of their lives, and the beginning of state-run type farms…this country needs to wake up and stop this attack on farmers for the benefit of ALL…eventually it wont stop at the few farmers in this country but will spread to the rest of the population.

  5. sookie says:

    Baby calves raised for veal are “pampered”??!! You must be joking. From the time they are ripped from their mother, then roped to their stall..I beg to differ.
    I also met and spoke with someone who worked at the veal slaughterhouse. He said that what he dealt with on a daily basis kept him up at night. His words….”THEY say it’s humane..THEY say it’s humane.. but I get those baby cows with their eyes rolling back in their heads, still alert and aware, groaning and in pain..They SAY it’s humane”. His words and the look on his face kept me up that night as well.

  6. KeithC says:

    I’m always amazed how people that support “animal rights” know of all these issues about animals being mistreated, abused, inhumane treatment, etc. yet never report it to the proper authority. Instead, they post the alleged mistreatment on blogs or splice “undercover” video. If you know of any animal being mistreated you should report it immeaditly to USDA, ODA, ODNR, etc. not sit around and gossip about it. Abuse is abuse, if you have to abuse an animal to video tape someone else doing it, you HAVE committed animal abuse.

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