Who are Ontario’s
veal farmers?

As with all farms in Canada, the vast majority of veal farms are family farms – owned and run by Ontario families who care about animals, the land, and ensuring the sustainability of farming and food production for future generations. Some of these farms have been in the same family for generations; all veal farms make important contributions to Ontario’s rural communities and the provincial economy.

Veal cattle welfare and the humane treatment of animals

Veal cattle health and welfare is a top priority for veal farmers, and they take that responsibility seriously. Canada’s national Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Veal Cattle (the Code) is the standard of responsible care for veal cattle in Canada, based on the latest research and understanding of veal cattle behaviour and welfare. The Code spells out what farmers need to do to ensure veal cattle are healthy, safe, and well-cared for, able to express normal behaviour, and experience freedom from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury, disease, fear, and distress. More information is available at bit.ly/vealcode.

Farmers work closely with veterinarians to make sure veal cattle are healthy and productive. Veterinarians are very knowledgeable about production practices, health, and welfare and can advise farmers about the best treatment and care their animals need.

There are also very specific rules that farmers must follow when it comes to handling and transporting veal cattle. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) oversees these regulations, which cover everything from weather and maximum travel times to adequate space, access to food and water, and how to deal with animals that are considered compromised or unfit for transport.

More about life on the farm

Once they are old enough, male calves leave the dairy farm. Why, you might ask? Dairy farms specialize in milk production, not raising animals for meat, so male calves are moved to veal farms that focus on raising animals for meat. Veal farmers buy animals from many different dairy farms, so they take special steps to protect them from getting sick when they first come onto the farm, like vaccinating them against different diseases.

Although many veal cattle are placed into group pens right away, some live in individual covered outdoor pens called hutches or in individual pens inside the barn for the first few weeks of their lives. This is to keep them from being exposed to any illnesses that other cattle might have and give their immune systems a chance to develop. They are fed milk replacer, which is milk powder mixed with water and contains a balanced diet of protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. They are also given water and calf starter, which is a solid feed fed to calves to help them transition away from milk and support their healthy gut development.

Once veal cattle leave their individual pens, they are moved into barns where they live in group pens bedded with straw or wood shavings together with other veal cattle of the same size and age. This is to make sure they all have equal access to feed and water, as well as given them opportunities to socialize or interact with other cattle. They eat a high energy diet of mainly grains like corn, feed pellets that are made of protein, vitamins and minerals, and a small amount of daily fibre. Professional livestock nutritionists work with farmers make sure their veal cattle are fed a healthy, balanced diet.

Growing crops sustainably

Veal farmers generally grow crops like corn and grains on their farms to feed their cattle. Many follow sustainable farming practices like working the soil as little as possible, using cover crops to reduce erosion and keep moisture in the ground, and rotating the crops they grow in each field to minimize pests and diseases and keep soil healthy and productive. Some are also adopting a soil health-focused approach to growing crops called regenerative agriculture, which will strengthen soil health over time. All of these practices encourage environmental sustainability and will help reduce the impacts of climate change.