Agroscope Liebefeld-Posieux, Swiss Federal Research Station for Animal Production and Dairy Products (ALP), CH-1725 Posieux

Does an outdoor enclosure have beneficial effects on veal calves?

An experiment repeated in two series, one in summer and the other in winter, with a total of 160 bull calves was conducted at Agroscope Liebefeld-Posieux (ALP), station “Posieux”, in order to evaluate the effect of the access to an outdoor enclosure on health and performance of veal calves. The animals were kept in group pens in a calf barn. The control groups remained indoors, whereas the experimental groups had access to outdoor enclosure. Half of the animals from both the control and the experimental groups received an unrestricted standard ration based on whole milk supplemented with milk replacer, while the other half of each group was given the same liquid feed in restricted quantity and supplemented with grain ad libitum.The husbandry system had no significant effect on the health of the animals. However, access to the outdoor enclosure was beneficial in the series conducted in winter and had positive effects on feed intake, performance, the quality of the carcasses and more generally on the economic results. Contrary to this, the economic results and the performance of the animals with outdoor access in the series which was conducted in summer were negative. The influence of the seasons is considered to be the explanation for these differences and therefore access to an outdoor enclosure is recommended above all in winter.

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