The fate of bull calves has been increasingly under the microscope, with animal rights campaigners focusing on the issue as arguments against dairy consumption.
With the issue under the spotlight, dairy chiefs have started to look at it in welfare standards, with Arla’s UK360 standards banning shooting or exporting healthy bull calves, as did the standards for the Pasture Promise Logo.
Other processors, and unions, were also concerned about the issue.
One company which has been successful in finding a market for these calves was Buitelaar, linking up the supply chain and supplying Red Tractor assured British beef and rose veal to customers including supermarkets, the manufacturing and food service sectors as well as export markets.
Sales manager Oliver King said there was a growing market for rose veal.
He said: “Previously there was a stigma. We feel consumers want to know more and the story we can tell sells itself, particularly for those looking for a product that is consistent in quality and from a high welfare, sustainable safe supply chain.”
He added customers were impressed by the product quality, sustainability and its provenance.
Mr King was confident there was demand in both beef products and rose veal for more calves to enter their supply chain.
“We are experiencing increased demand and need more animals to go through the supply chain. We have customers who actively want more of these products.”
The majority of calves they dealt with were Black and Whites, but they also collected other breeds.
The firm has calf collection centres across the UK, which allowed them to build relationships and communications lines with farmers. This helps Buitelaar get the ‘right quality in terms of health and specification’ of animal.
The calves either went into a professional rearing unit and then on to a finishing farm once weaned, or were sent to a farm which reared and finished them.
They were looking to work alongside farmers to help move more of them towards rearing and finishing the calves, meaning fewer movements for the calves and better returns for the farmer.
He emphasised their relationships with the farmers were vital for the business, and the farmers were offered a minimum price, allowing them to ‘evaluate’ beforehand, acknowledging the farmers needed to be making a return to make the supply chain sustainable.