Today we brought an unannounced visit to the calf farm of Tijs de Koning. Tijs welcomed us to take a look at his farm, were he keeps 1,300 rosé calves. The calves were kept in a conventional manner – in groups on slatted floors. Because the calves are fattened for rosé meat there is no restriction of iron intake. There were a few calves that were weak or ill. They were kept in pens with straw for some extra comfort.
Despite young animals like calves being curious and playful, on conventional farms they are unfortunately kept in boring conditions. We discussed with Tijs the value of enrichment /suckling materials and suggested he try to make the housing of his calves more interesting for them, for example by offering them ropes and brushes. We also advised to make the mobile side walls that are used to move the calves during loading and unloading solid. If sidewalls are partly open, calves get distracted and put their heads in between the side openings out of curiosity. If side walls are closed calves walk more easy and loading goes much smoother. This also benefits the welfare of the calves because workers will be less frustrated or impatient. Tijs was open to our ideas and will later on tell us his experiences.
We would like to thank Tijs for his time, openness and motivation to make animal welfare improvements for the calves in his care.