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Open AccessArticle

Welfare Assessment in Calves Fattened According to the “Outdoor Veal Calf” Concept and in Conventional Veal Fattening Operations in Switzerland

1
Clinic for Ruminants, Vetsuisse-Faculty, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
2
Veterinary Public Health Institute, Vetsuisse-Faculty, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
3
Ethology and Animal Welfare Unit, Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH), 8053 Zurich, Switzerland
4
Centre for Proper Housing of Ruminants and Pigs, Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, Agroscope, 8356 Tänikon, Switzerland
5
Animal Husbandry Division, Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, Humboldt University of Berlin, 10099 Berlin, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1810; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101810
Received: 29 August 2020 / Revised: 29 September 2020 / Accepted: 1 October 2020 / Published: 5 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Large Animal Medicine: Advances in Calf Health)
Antimicrobial use in humans and animals leads to the selection of resistant bacteria, a serious threat to human and animal health, as such bacteria can lead to treatment failure and death. With the “outdoor veal calf” concept, a novel calf fattening system was developed that allows for reducing antimicrobial use by 80% through improvements in management and housing, such as health check before purchase, short transport, vaccination, quarantine in individual hutches, and fattening in small groups in a roofed, straw-bedded paddock with a group hutch for shelter. In that system, veal calves spend their entire lives outdoors in the fresh air. In our study, we wanted to make sure that the observed reduction in antimicrobial treatments was not achieved at the cost of animal welfare, i.e., that sick animals were not left without treatment in order to obtain better figures for treatment reduction. Our results show that calves in the “outdoor veal calf” system had fewer signs of respiratory and digestive diseases than control calves and that their lungs had fewer lesions of pneumonia than controls after slaughter. Thus, not only was antimicrobial use drastically reduced, but calf health was really improved in the new “outdoor veal calf” system.
The “outdoor veal calf” system was developed to encounter the demand for a veal fattening system that allows for reducing antimicrobial use without impairing animal welfare. Management improvements including direct purchase, short transportation, vaccination, three-week quarantine in individual hutches, and open-air housing in small groups in a roofed, straw-bedded paddock with a group hutch were implemented in a prospective intervention study (1905 calves, 19 intervention and 19 control farms, over one year): antimicrobial use was five times lower in "outdoor veal" farms compared to control farms (p < 0.001), but it was crucial to ensure that antimicrobial treatment reduction was not associated with decreased animal welfare, i.e., that sick animals were not left untreated. Welfare was assessed monthly on the farms, and organs of 339 calves were examined after slaughter. Cough and nasal discharge were observed significantly (p ≤ 0.05) less often in intervention than in control farms, mortality (3.1% vs. 6.3%, p = 0.020) and lung lesion prevalence (26% vs. 46%, p < 0.001) were lower; no group difference was seen in abomasal lesion prevalence (65% vs. 72%). Thus, besides reduced antimicrobial use, calf health and welfare were improved in "outdoor veal calf" farms in comparison to traditional operations. View Full-Text
Keywords: veal industry; animal welfare; housing; pneumonia; abomasal ulcers; antimicrobial use; treatment incidence veal industry; animal welfare; housing; pneumonia; abomasal ulcers; antimicrobial use; treatment incidence
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    Doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2020.104907
MDPI and ACS Style

Moser, L.; Becker, J.; Schüpbach-Regula, G.; Kiener, S.; Grieder, S.; Keil, N.; Hillmann, E.; Steiner, A.; Meylan, M. Welfare Assessment in Calves Fattened According to the “Outdoor Veal Calf” Concept and in Conventional Veal Fattening Operations in Switzerland. Animals 2020, 10, 1810. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101810

AMA Style

Moser L, Becker J, Schüpbach-Regula G, Kiener S, Grieder S, Keil N, Hillmann E, Steiner A, Meylan M. Welfare Assessment in Calves Fattened According to the “Outdoor Veal Calf” Concept and in Conventional Veal Fattening Operations in Switzerland. Animals. 2020; 10(10):1810. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101810

Chicago/Turabian Style

Moser, Lara; Becker, Jens; Schüpbach-Regula, Gertraud; Kiener, Sarah; Grieder, Sereina; Keil, Nina; Hillmann, Edna; Steiner, Adrian; Meylan, Mireille. 2020. "Welfare Assessment in Calves Fattened According to the “Outdoor Veal Calf” Concept and in Conventional Veal Fattening Operations in Switzerland" Animals 10, no. 10: 1810. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101810

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