Today, Eyes on Animals held a discussion with two representatives from the Netherlands Agricultural and Horticultural Organization (LTO) and the Southern Netherlands Agricultural and Horticultural Organization (ZLTO) regarding the welfare status of goat kids.
In 2020, Eyes on Animals published the report “Welfare of Male Goat Kids in Focus.” In this report, we highlighted concerns such as high mortality rates among goat kids, their transportation and slaughter at a very young age (7 days), and proposed various suggestions for improvements. Both of the discussion partners informed us that several of these recommendations have since been implemented, including the earlier registration of lambs and the gradual increase in the age for transportation. Additionally, efforts are being made to explore the possibility of spreading the birth of lambs throughout the year. Currently, there’s often a peak in births from March to May, which can lead to strain on transporters, slaughterhouses, and regulatory authorities (NVWA). It is crucial to address this issue vigorously to prevent the export of kids for slaughter abroad.
LTO and ZLTO informed us that most farmers, as outlined in the sector protocol, now fatten at least 25% of their male goat kids for a minimum of two weeks. This percentage is set to increase to 50% next year and 100% the following year. In practice, the proportion of goat kids being fattened is often already higher than the mandated 25%, and they are typically sent for slaughter after an average of 3-5 weeks.
In the North Brabant region, which falls under ZLTO’s jurisdiction, some goat farmers are encountering issues with local municipalities. Due to a “construction halt,” these municipalities are not granting permission to construct small facilities for fattening goat kids. As a result, goat kids from farmers with space constraints are, in some cases, prematurely sent for slaughter at just 7 days old. We, along with LTO and ZLTO, hope that the North Brabant province will consider making exceptions for goat farmers in need of such facilities for independent fattening. This approach would prevent the construction halt from hindering crucial animal welfare measures. The usage of these facilities solely for goat kids (and not for dairy goats) can be documented in a contract. Eyes on Animals finds it unacceptable for goat kids to be transported after only 7 days; at this stage, they are still unsteady on their feet and become weakened very quickly. While we still believe that 3-5 weeks is still way too young, these kids are relatively more resilient against transport stress and coping with a longer period without milk.
We view our conversation with LTO in a positive light. Improvements in the welfare of goat kids were and are highly necessary, and it appears that they are now being taken seriously.