Grain-fed veal factsheets

Deciding to raise calves for the grain-fed veal market requires thorough and thoughtful planning. This series of factsheets will help answer common questions and guide you in the right direction.

Becoming a grain-fed veal farmer in Ontario

Find the answers to common questions about purchasing and marketing veal cattle, and learn more about starting a grain-fed veal farm in Ontario in this fact sheet.

Feeding for finish

Grain-fed veal cattle are fed a balanced ration based of grain (usually clean, whole-shelled corn) and pellets made of protein, vitamins, and minerals. A small amount of roughage should be offered daily to maintain rumen health. Cattle should also have continuous access to their feed, to encourage slower eating and stimulate chewing. Ensure there is adequate bunk space for each animal. Learn more about feeding for finish in this fact sheet.

Acidosis

Ruminal acidosis is a common metabolic disorder that has significant economic implications in the grain-fed veal industry. Feeding excessive amounts of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates to ruminants, in conjunction with inadequate fibre, can cause acidosis. If left untreated, acidosis could lead to rumenitis, laminitis, liver abscesses, reduced feed intake, sudden death syndrome, off-feed syndrome, and clostridial infections (Vermeire, 2012). All these conditions are affecting your bottom line; you cannot afford to overlook acidosis in your operation. Learn more about acidosis in this fact sheet.

Pellet quality

There are important management practices to remember when handling protein supplement (or concentrate, the two terms are interchangeable) pellets. Pellets are processed to have a hard surface, so they do not break down and create fines. Fines could include important minerals that the animals need and can cause acidosis. Even with a hardener added to the pellet, the ends are soft and fragile; excessive handling (auguring, mixing, and distribution) and surrounding moisture can contribute to pellet damage. Learn more about pellet quality in this fact sheet.

Starter

When calves are first introduced to solid feed it is referred to as “starter”. The form of the starter is personal preference, some have molasses added which calves love, but attracts a lot of flies. It can also clump in the summer with hot, humid weather, and freeze in the winter. Pellets are easier to feed but can be a challenge for young calves to get used to eating. The pellets can also crumble, making them unpalatable to the calf, so it is even more important to offer fresh calf starter daily. Learn more about starter in this fact sheet.

Water

Water is one of the most important inputs into any livestock production system. Water is one the areas that crosses not only food safety, but welfare. The two main guidelines available for veal producers across Canada to follow are the Verified Veal Program (VVP), Canada’s veal on-farm food safety program and the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Veal Cattle (the Code). Water quality must be tested annually however it is recommended to be tested at least in the spring and fall. Water can be tested through the local Public Health Unit for the presence of bacterial indicators of contamination such as E. coli and total coliforms. Learn more about water in this fact sheet.

Clostridium perfringens

All too often when a young calf dies everyone is left wondering what happened? The calf appeared fine at last check but then it dies. Upon post-mortem it is discovered the calf died from enterotoxaemia, referring to a systemic disease caused by the absorption of a toxin from the intestine. The term gastroenteritis is also used as a diagnosis. Gastroenteritis is primarily caused from a bacterium causing an infection in the gut, mostly resulting from poor hygiene. Infection can also be a result of the toxin the bacteria produce. Regardless of the term used, the cause is most always Clostridium perfringens. Learn more in this fact sheet.

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