Skip to main content

EFSA: house calves in small groups to improve welfare

Veal calves should be housed in small groups during their first weeks of life and the use of individual pens should be avoided to improve their welfare. Calves also need sufficient space to rest and play and access to comfortable bedding. These are some of the recommendations published today in a scientific opinion Opinions include risk assessments on general scientific issues, evaluations of an application for the authorisation of a product, substance or claim, or an evaluation of a risk assessment. by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), to support the revision of the European Union’s animal welfare legislation.

Two young black and white calves, together sitting on straw bedding undercover

EFSA’s scientists said long-cut fibrous feed such as hay should be provided to calves from the age of two weeks onwards and gradually increased over time. High intakes of fibre are needed to cover rumination and iron requirements.

Scientific evidence shows that calves with limited contact with their mother frequently suffer from isolation stress and an inability to suckle. To improve their welfare, the young animals should be kept with the dam for a minimum of one day, although longer contact is recommended due to the welfare benefits for both calf and cow.

Science-based advice to support legislators

Our scientists assessed the husbandry systems used in the European Union for calves and identified hazards to which the animals are exposed and the associated consequences for their welfare. The assessment provides scientific advice to support the decision-making by legislators as part of the ongoing revision of the European Union’s animal welfare legislation. A legislative proposal by the European Commission is expected in the second half of 2023.

The European Commission requested several scientific opinions from EFSA on the welfare of farmed animals in the framework of its Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy. EFSA has already published assessments on the welfare of farmed pigs, broilers and laying hens and animals during transportation. Our scientists are also finalising work on assessments covering the welfare of dairy cattle, and ducks, geese and quail.

Save the date

EFSA will present the findings on calves and the upcoming opinions on dairy cows and ducks, geese and quail at a public event on 23 May 2023. More information can be found here.

How to contact us

EFSA Media Relations Office

Tel. +39 0521 036 149

E-mail: press [at] (Press[at]efsa[dot]europa[dot]eu)

(Only if you are a member of the press)

Ask a Question Service

You have a question about EFSA’s work? Contact our Ask a Question service!

Ask a Question Service