Ohio care board OKs stall confinement for young veal calves

Note: Updates are being made, and a second report with public comments is forthcoming.

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Veal producers in the Buckeye State will be allowed to continue raising their calves in stall confinement into 2017 and beyond, according to standards approved by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board during a March 1 special meeting.

After a couple hours of intense discussion and testimony from animal rights activists and a near-capacity crowd of farmers, the board voted 6-5 in favor of removing language that would have allowed calves of all ages to turn around. The amendment effectively allows calves to be kept in individual stall pens that restrict turning around, up to 10 weeks of age, after 2017.

Calves older than 10 weeks must be able to turn around and be moved to group housing, and tethering at any age is prohibited after 2017, unless medically necessary, or for transportation, or to prevent navel and cross sucking of other animals.

The vote

Voting in favor of removing the “turn-around” language was Jeff Wuebker, who made the motion, Jerry Lahmers, Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Stacey Atherton, Dominic Marchese and Bobby Moser. Opposing the measure was Ohio Director of Agriculture Director James Zehringer, State Veterinarian Tony Forshey, Bill Moody, Leon Weaver and Harry Dates.

The veal subcommittee originally recommended tethering up to 10 weeks, and individual loose pens or group pens thereafter. Its members will be required to give up tethering, but retain the right to use non-turnaround loose pens up to 10 weeks.

The board’s vote completes the veal standards draft, which the board approved sending to the e-comment notification system, for the public to review and file comments, before the standard is advanced through the state’s rule-making process.

Flashback

The board weighed hours of testimony from yesterday’s meeting, and the past several veal meetings, along with research and economic studies. The last major action came at the Nov. 2 meeting, when the board approved two production “concepts” for veal.

At the November meeting, the board voted 7-4 to require veal calves under 10 weeks of age to be able to turn around, and it voted unanimously 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.

At the Feb. 22 meeting, it was revealed more than 30 Ohio veal farmers had signed an affidavit saying they did not intend to continue their operations in the state, unless they could confine the calves individually for the first 10 weeks of age.

Most recent

At the March 1 meeting, it appeared at least a dozen or more who signed the affidavit were present. They cited these reasons against allowing young calves to turn around: higher calf mortality, more issues with fecal contamination and medical expenses, competition for food, uncontrolled navel suckling instincts, the cost of converting to group housing and the decrease of efficiency in group housing.

Age factor

Several producers and veterinarians spoke on the susceptibility of calves 10 weeks old and younger, which is why they advocate individual stalls at this age.

State Veterinarian Tony Forshey said from a health and disease standpoint, “I think we can pretty easily justify the not turning around in those first few weeks.”

Dave Glauer, former state veterinarian and the board’s technical writer, explained to other board members why the provision was being considered.

“This (young calf) is a fragile individual in their first part of their lives,” he said. “I think they could be maintained in an individually loose pen.”

Balancing concerns

Board member Jeff Wuebker, a swine farmer from Versailles, summarized the information he had been given, including statements by American Veal Association approving the recommendations of the veal subcommittee, including the individual stall confinement up to 10 weeks.

“There is lots of science out there that shows the individuality of the calf is extremely important to the health and well-being of that animal,” he said. “I would argue that the individuality is needed in those first 10 weeks.”

The board entertained testimony from Wayne County veterinarian and veal subcommittee member Todd Smith, who presented a veal cost comparison chart based on size of pen; and from Gaylord Barkman of Buckeye Veal, who uses and advocates for the group pen system.

Smith’s report, which was done in consultation with Ohio veal farmers, found significant decreases in the number of calves a producer could finish based on increases to pen size. With 100 24-inch stalls, a producer with the same size facility could produce 34 more calves than with stalls of 36 inches wide.

A producer using the same size facility with group housing would produce 20 fewer calves than with the 24-inch stalls, or about a 20 percent reduction.

Death loss increased at least 2 percent over stall confinement, and feed and medical costs both showed significant increases with group housing. Overall, group housing cost about 30 cents more per pound of calf, compared to other models used in the study.

Barkman, who is director of service and sales for Buckeye Veal, said he and his producers are doing well with the group model. Although it costs a lot initially to convert, his company has helped producers with conversion costs, he said.

“They’re (group housing producers) being profitable, they’re using it and there are a lot more (producers) transferring into it,” he said.

Some of Barkman’s meat processors demand group raised calves and some pay a premium for such calves.

Preserving choice

However, veal farmers not associated with Buckeye Veal and its feed company, said they want to be able to maintain their independence, and use the proven practices that best suit their own farm and markets.

The veal standards are still considered a draft, and are likely to be filed for review with the Ohio Department of Agriculture in the coming days. Check back soon for more updates and a link.

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

3 Comments

  1. L. Yaco says:

    How could ANYONE be ok with not allowing an animal to move around in its stall. When I hear about this insanity I always say “How would humans like to live like this?”. We wouldn’t put up with it and so animals shouldn’t be forced to put up with this torture. What a shame. I am again embarrassed for some in the human race.

  2. sookie says:

    this is so basic….allowing a living creature that was made to move, the freedom to move. A good farmer would want nothing less for his/her animals.

  3. M. W. says:

    After vehemently declaring the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and then Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland were wrong when they brokered a politically motivated, irresponsible, unsustainable and inhumane agreement with The Humane Society of The United States. I have since maintained that stance.

    I have educated as many people as possible about why this agreement was wrong; however, I resigned from commenting on your website.

    After hearing about Farm Bureau’s decision to reverse their previous stance on veal calf confinement, effectively breaching the corrupt agreement struck between Ohio agriculture and HSUS I was met with mixed emotions.

    My suspicions of an onslaught of political attention to follow were confirmed when Wayne Pacelle announced he would be back in Ohio with last years initiative. Now he can attack not only agricultural practices in this state, but our integrity as well.

    With this reversed decision, OFBF is leading their members still involved directly with animal production (the minority of members) to slaughter. Producers can not afford to be faced with the campaign that will soon follow, the time for that is over–that battle has been lost.

    HSUS has no need to cast a shadow on the legitimacy of agricultural organizations in this state because Ohio Farm Bureau is executing the HSUS’s ultimate agenda very effectively; that being to erode consumer trust.

    Not only has OFBF sold out its producers, but it has sold out its right to be a legitimate representative for agriculture in this state.

    Ohio Farm Bureau is entirely hypocritical and the irresponsible actions of this organization will impact the legitimacy of highly esteemed professions such as Veterinary Medicine.

    If OFBF isn’t able to keep their word, collectively agree with veterinary organizations and consistently maintain a stance on what is right for animal welfare why should the average disconnected consumer believe anything you have to say?

    The veterinary organizations such as OVMA and AVMA should never have aligned themselves with OFBF in the first place. I made my feelings about this known as well.

    Legitimate organizations should distance themselves from OFBF in every way possible from this point forward.

    My suggestion is that the current Ohio Farm Bureau leadership meet with leaders of this state’s veterinary organizations, collectively announces that they will not renege on this bad deal with HSUS and stands by their commitment to uphold this horrific agreement with HSUS, banning the tethering of all veal calves. Not because tethering veal calves is wrong, but because OFBF and the OLCSB can not afford to look like back tracking hypocrites in the eyes of the public.

    Following this meeting ALL of the leadership at Ohio Farm Bureau should offer their resignations to afford the future leaders of this state an opportunity to instill decency and integrity to the Ohio Farm Bureau.

    If you hear nothing else, hear this: If OFBF maintains this ignorant and hypocritical behavior while serving as a representative for agriculture, you will remove all hopes of instilling and maintaing what’s left of public support for agriculture in this state. The decisions to be made are far to complex for Jack Fischer to manage.

    OFBF and farmers will be taking a back seat to animal aights agencies like the HSUS who have done a far better job of communicating their positions in a more open, comfortable and consistent manner if you screw this up again.

    OFBF admitted they were wrong when they fought HSUS to create the OLCSB, by then negotiating and now OFBF is saying their negotiations were wrong. When will this nightmare end?

    OFBF was late to arrive on the scene of this mounting problem and they have been wrong in every attempt to handle it, with the exception of their first decision to fight HSUS and create the OLCSB through Issue 2.

    We were already far behind in points and well into the second half of the game when OFBF finally decided to “deal with” the animal rights agenda.

    At the start of the second half you kicked a field goal to tie the game by pushing Issue 2

    Now, there has been noting but a string of penalties stifling that once brilliantly created game plan and instead of losing the game for agriculture, I kindly ask that you simply ‘GO AWAY’

    The Ohio Farm Bureau, former Governor Strickland, commodity group representatives and to some extent, veterinary organizations within this state have constructed a complex problem, I charge you to do the responsible thing and prevent it from growing further.

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