Alternative Systems for Veal and Dairy/Beef - Health, Welfare, Behavior, Performance, and Carcass

Project Number: PEN03259
Researchers: Wilson, L. L.; Henning, W. R.;
Mills, E. W.
Start Date: 01-Jan-92
End Date: 31-Dec-95
Performing Institution: Penn State Dairy and Animal Science, University Park, PA 16802

Research Objectives:

  • Determine health, behavior, performance and carcass traits of calves in different systems
  • Determine effects of facility designs
  • Develop carcass grade system
  • Determine economics

Approach: Different veal and dairy-beef feeder calf management systems will be compared including facility (pen) alterations, diet (liquid vs grain) and general systems including a suckler/grain/pasture system. Carcass characteristics will be measured on calves resulting from management systems and carcass grading systems compared. Nutritional amendments will be compared.

Progress: Based on surveys of veal and dairy-beef producers, budgets were prepared for these two different segments of the industry. Research problem priorities were housing, ventilation, waste disposal and public concerns. In a comparison of stall sizes (22, 26 and 30-inch widths) and type (individual stalls with tethers vs. pens without tethers), there were no significance differences in growth performance, blood cell counts, neutrophil:lymphocyte ratios, cortisol or acute phase proteins, and only minor differences in relative time expenditure in various behavioral activities. Minor or no differences between treatments were observed in structural soundness, agility, quality grade or muscle color.

There were essentially no differences between veal calf diets in comparison with dried skim milk and whey protein concentrate in most calf health or treatment criteria, apparent biological value or apparent digestibility. Carcasses (n=150) were subjectively (visually) and objectively (colorimeter) evaluated for relative color at 0, 6, 12 and 24 h post-slaughter. Multiple correlations (R(2)) ranged from .26 to 0.51 using flank and/or brisket colorimeter measures at 0, 6, 12 and 24 hrs. in the prediction of 24 h subjectively evaluated L. dorsi color. Comparisons of different types of flooring for veal calves suggested no differences in growth or carcass traits, with body cleanliness favoring plastic-coated reinforced rod.


  1. WILSON, L. L., STULL, C. L., TEROSKY, T. L. 1996. Scientific advancements and legislation addressing veal calves in North America. In: Proceedings, International Veal Symposium—Perspectives for the year 2000. Le Mans, France. Accepted for publication.

  2. TEROSKY, T. L. 1995. A comparison of alternative protein sources in calf diets up to 8 weeks of age. M.S. Thesis. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

  3. WILSON, L. L., EGAN, C. L., HENNING, W. R., MILLS, E. W., DRAKE, T. R. 1995. Effects of live animal performance and hemoglobin level on special-fed veal carcass characteristics. Meat Sci. 41(1):89-96.

  4. WILSON, L. L., TEROSKY, T. L. 1995. Present status of special-fed veal production in the United States. Int. Focus on Meat J. Accepted for publication.

  5. WILSON, L. L., GREASER, G. L., CASH, E. H., COMERFORD, J. W., HARPER, J. K. 1995. Agricultural alternatives. Dairy-beef production. Small and Part-Time Project, USDA/ES, University Park, PA. 6 pp.

  6. WILSON, L. L., GREASER, G. L., HARPER, J. K. 1994. Agricultural alternatives: Veal production. Small and Part-Time Farming Project, USDA/ES, University Park, PA. 4 pp.