The Klaremelk company operates in the centre of the country.

A family business, it produces 1,000 calves for slaughter weekly as well as 800t of milk powder, some of which is destined for Ireland.

Their veal operation consists of eight owned and 40 contract farms. The average veal calf is slaughtered at 28 weeks and farms operate on an all in-all out basis.

What does this mean? It means that every calf on a given farm is the same age – they arrive in one batch and leave in one batch. Between each batch the barns are meticulously cleaned as a biosecurity measure.

Given the most of the dairy systems in the Netherlands are enclosed, there are no defined calving seasons like in Ireland. Hence, there’s a steady supply of calves for Klaremelk all year round which allows for this type of strategy. The flow is controlled so that one farm’s calves are hitting slaughter targets each week.

One man – 1,000 calves

On Tuesday of this week, we visited a farm where there were 825 four-week-old calves, of which 750 had come from Ireland. In keeping with the Dutch reputation for efficiency, one man runs this whole operation. His name is Wim van der Leest, and he told me how his own mortality rates are sub 1%. Indeed the company operates at a rate of less than 3%.

Klaremelk’s veal systems are 90% white veal – meaning calves are never weaned from milk. Rosé veal systems involve a period of concentrate feeding pre-slaughter, but are less common.

Calves are mostly pure Holstein Friesian in Klaremelk, but there are some Belgian Blue-sired calves. On the point of slaughter at 28 weeks, the Holstein calves will typically weigh 280kg and achieve carcase weights of 150kg. Blue calves will achieve carcase weights of 160kg to 180kg.

Listen to “Inside a Dutch veal operation using Irish calves” on Spreaker.

Read more in the Irish Farmers Journal in the coming weeks.

We will delve deeper into Dutch veal and find out how herd health standards are so high, what type of feeding regimes are in place, what external pressures are coming on veal operations and how veal producers control the colour of the meat they produce.

Read more

Calf exports soaring as prices surge