NFU Scotland has described the decision by Robert Wiseman Dairies' to follow
other milk processors in cutting its milk price as another huge blow for
Scottish dairy farmers.
Before being able to offer full support for the calf export trade, and aware
of some concerns being voiced, NFU Scotland wanted to ensure that the systems
being used in Europe ensure high standards of care.
Nigel Miller, along with a group of British MPs, spent a full day in Belgium
visiting four farms and a slaughterhouse, all on contract to a family run
company, Vanlommel, which sources some of its calves from Scotland. The company,
which controls a total of 70 farms, specialises in veal production and manages
the entire production process from calf procurement, nutrition and health
to processing and packaging.
Mr Miller confirmed that the standards of care were of an extremely high
quality, with in-house vets compulsory and all technical expertise underpinned
by an independent Swedish audit company.
Speaking on his return, Nigel Miller, who is also a qualified vet, said:
“These farms are producing a premium product which they are extremely
proud of. I was very impressed by the levels of care, enthusiasm and knowledge
demonstrated by the producers I met and I have a great deal of confidence
in the systems and facilities in operation.
“Some people will be uneasy about the veal industry but we must remember
that we are dealing with an entirely different culture over in Belgium. There
is no veal industry in the UK to enable a comparison, but in Belgium it is
a vital part of the economy and as such, producers take every care to do
it in the best way possible and to the highest standards.
“I saw animals experience exacting standards of nutrition, being fed
on milk, maize silage or course grain and iron supplements where necessary.
The calves are seemingly happy and thriving, being given freedom for social
contact and receiving individual attention, all evidence that the system
is delivering healthy calves. The animals are clean and the purpose built
buildings are also clean and well ventilated. I was also pleasantly surprised
by the amount of space each animal gets and with the precautions which are
taken to control disease. All of the vet input is both frequent and top quality
and everything I saw was obliged to meet with Belgian Veal Association specifications,
with the farms undergoing regular independent audits.
“NFU Scotland promised to undertake this visit so that we can assure
sceptics, from our own first-hand experience, that the systems in operation
in Belgium are welfare friendly. We have delivered on that promise and are
happy with what we’ve seen. If these farms are a barometer of what
is happening elsewhere in Europe then I have confidence in the way the veal
trade is operating.”
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