Author: Anna Lena Lindau – BRS (L.Lindau@rind-schwein.de)
The method of gentle touching of calves was performed on a suckler beef farm in Germany. The calves were born on a suckler beef farm breeding Simmenthal cows in the eastern part of North Rhine Westfalia. The farmer has approximately 30 cows with their calves. The owner was instructed by the researcher Anna Lena (from BRS) to carry out the touching of the calf according to the to the instructions published on the Bovine Knowledge Hub - Gently touching of beef calves early in life reduces stress at the abattoir.
A video with the instructions was recorded and can be seen below.
Within the first week after the initial instruction A. Lena visited the farm several times and asked the farmer to take a video each day of the visit to demonstrate the principal of the gentle touching. The farmer already stayed in close contact to her calves after birth but to put the method into practice, she started to care for them systematically every day for the first month after calving and partly even longer when the female calves were supposed to stay on the farm. The results can be seen in the pictures below and were shown to an audience of approximately 35 cattle farmers on the German young breeder’s competition ("Bundesjungzüchterwettbewerb") which took place on 10th and 11th of September in "Haus Düsse", Bad Sassendorf.
The calves got used to the touching very soon and even seemed to enjoy it. The youngstock were much more relaxed, and handling was easier. This was not only advantageous when it came to slaughtering the animals, but was also useful when the vet needed to handle the animals, when the barn had to be cleaned, for example.
The main obstacles observed in this innovation, often were the mother cows, which sometimes were quite fearful about the farmer getting so close to their newborn calf. Most suckler cows got used to it after a few days of routine, but with some calves the demonstration could not be performed completely because the cows were too aggressive. The farmer hopes, that the next generation of cows who experienced the gentle touching as calves might become more peaceful.
The only cost associated to this innovation was time of work. Of course time worth money but the time invested for the calves will pay back later when the handling of the animals will get easier and tasks can be carried out faster as animals are more cooperative. That is why most farmers would recommend this method to other beef farmers.
Link to the innovation on BKH: