EFSA: house calves in small groups to improve welfare


Veal calves should be housed in small groups during their first weeks of life and the use of individual pens should be avoided to improve their welfare. Calves also need sufficient space to rest and play and access to comfortable bedding. These are some of the recommendations published today in a scientific opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), to support the revision of the European Union’s animal welfare legislation.

EFSA’s scientists said long-cut fibrous feed such as hay should be provided to calves from the age of two weeks onwards and gradually increased over time. High intakes of fibre are needed to cover rumination and iron requirements.

Scientific evidence shows that calves with limited contact with their mother frequently suffer from isolation stress and an inability to suckle. To improve their welfare, the young animals should be kept with the dam for a minimum of one day, although longer contact is recommended due to the welfare benefits for both calf and cow.

Science-based advice to support legislators

Our scientists assessed the husbandry systems used in the European Union for calves and identified hazards to which the animals are exposed and the associated consequences for their welfare. The assessment provides scientific advice to support the decision-making by legislators as part of the ongoing revision of the European Union’s animal welfare legislation. A legislative proposal by the European Commission is expected in the second half of 2023.

The European Commission requested several scientific opinions from EFSA on the welfare of farmed animals in the framework of its Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy. EFSA has already published assessments on the welfare of farmed pigsbroilers and laying hens and animals during transportation. Our scientists are also finalising work on assessments covering the welfare of dairy cattle, and ducks, geese and quail.


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