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Dear friends,

Great news! All of our efforts over the past seven years at stimulating a real change within the dairy industry are starting to pay off. This past week we held a conference with Dutch dairy farmers that keep their calves with their mothers about creating a “calf with mother” label for their dairy and meat.

2013: Inspections reveal welfare problems

It all started in 2013. We really wanted the dairy industry to take more responsibility and show more concern for the fate and welfare of the unwanted calves born on dairy farms. Our aim was for Dutch dairy farmers to try and keep the calves with their mothers in the herd for at least three months with gradual “low-stress” weaning. This instead of separating them at birth and transporting them off the farm when still fragile and dependent on milk.

We saw it as a potentially good solution to prevent all the welfare problems we witnessed during the sale and trucking of thousands and thousands of unweaned calves throughout Europe, and to offer cow and calf the opportunity to have a relationship and enjoy all the other benefits of staying together.
We want more farmers that keep the calves in the herd

2014-2016 Our findings make politics and industry move

In 2014 we published a report about our investigations of unweaned calf transports and also of dairy farms in the Netherlands that were keeping their calves in the herd, with their mothers, on the farm. This interested the very popular TV show Radar, which interviewed us and some of these farmers about this concept and benefits.

It led to questions in the Dutch Parliament. In 2016, a motion was passed in the House of Representatives that, in the near future, calves should not be separated at birth anymore in the dairy industry but allowed to remain with their mothers. It raised a lot of commotion and even serious negativity from some dairy producers, but also curiosity and positivity and hope among others!

2021: Developing a "Calf with mother" label

Recently those farmers that are enthusiastic about this idea and the new opportunities it can give them met at an online conference. The conference was hosted by dairy farmer Corné Arnsems from farm De Ruurhoeve. We met him in 2017 and since then we have been trying to market this idea together. The conference was organized with the help of Eyes on Animals, the Dierenbescherming and Landbouw Innovatie Brabant and was financially supported by Stichting Barth Misset.

The aim was to inform dairy farmers about the project to develop a "Calf with mother" label for dairy and beef products in The Netherlands and find ten dairy farmers that want to be involved in the pilot project. All dairy farmers participating want to help out and were very enthusiastic!
Lesley en Corné speaking with farmers at the conference
Hans Möller, a dairy farmer from northern Germany, spoke to the participants about how he got the concept "Elternzeit" started in Germany. Elternzeit means "parent time", calfs that stay with their mothers.

Five German dairy farms produce for Elternzeit and their separately labelled products can be found in numerous stores and wholesale distributors in northern Germany. They produce dairy for now, meat from the extra calves will come later.

I personally was invited by Eduard to come and get experience first hand. He is a good friend and was helping out at one of the German Elternzeit farms.
Eduard explaining the management at the Elternzeit farm.
All in all the conference showed that there is a strong interest and positive group effort which can lead to a new market for dairy and meat coming from dairy farms where calves are not separated after birth but kept with their mothers.

They say that change takes time, and seven years is a long time, but they also say that the longer the change takes, the more permanent and solid the change will be. This concept will help consumers, but also farmers, make this change in a way that is positive and sustainable.

Thank you for your support to Eyes on Animals. We could not stimulate these types of changes without your help.
Lesley Moffat
director Eyes on Animals
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