The objective of this study was to investigate effects of calf transport age (14 vs. 28 d) and calf (e.g., sex and breed) and dam characteristics (e.g., parity and ease of birth) on health and performance of veal calves until slaughter age. Calves (n = 683) originated from 13 dairy farms in the Netherlands and were transported at either 14 or 28 d of age from the dairy farm to 8 Dutch veal farms. A health assessment of calves was performed on a weekly basis at the dairy farm and in wk 2, 10, 18, and 24 at the veal farm. Body weight of calves was measured on a weekly basis at the dairy farm and upon arrival at the veal farm. At the veal farm, use of antibiotics and other medicines during the rearing period (both at herd and individual level) was recorded and carcass weights were obtained from the slaughterhouse. Body weight upon arrival (Δ = 11.8 kg) and carcass weight at slaughter (Δ = 14.8 kg) were greater, and mortality risk (Δ = −3.1%) and prevalence of animals treated with medicines other than antibiotics (e.g., antiinflammatories, multivitamins, and anticoccidial drugs; Δ = −5.4%) were lower in calves transported at 28 d compared with calves transported at 14 d. Crossbreds other than Belgian Blue × Holstein Friesian received a higher number of individual treatments with antibiotics and other medicines (Δ = 14.8% and Δ = 15.1%, respectively) at the veal farm compared with Belgian Blue × Holstein Friesian calves. These findings suggest that calves transported at 28 d were more robust compared with calves transported at 14 d.
- transport age
- veal calf