The Jersey is a small, quirky cow that produces extra full and tasty milk with more fat and protein than other dairy cows. Due to the somewhat frail build of these animals, the (bull) calves of Jersey dairy cows have a lower birth weight and little predisposition to produce (a lot of) meat.
This does not make them interesting for the veal calf trade. "That's a shame, because we believe that bull calves should absolutely not be a waste product. To produce milk, a cow has to give birth to a calf once a year, so it is inevitable that bulls are also born. Fifty percent of the calves born are bull calf.”
From 2021, DID-IT bv started in Nijkerk as a pioneer on the Braamstruik farm, together with the organic Jersey dairy farm of the Henri Willig family from Katwoude, a project that takes care of Jersey bull calves. During the first three months of life, these calves receive organic milk in the open barn of the organic farm de Braamstruik on Voorthuizerweg in Nijkerk.
The animals then switch completely to organic feed and meadow grass and remain in Nijkerk until the age of 12 months.Joining the bulls move to the Eyckenstein farm where they grow up in the meadow to become full-fledged meat animals. In the Netherlands, there are 20 dairy farms (holders) that keep Jerseys, included 8 organic farms, all of which now bring their bull calves to Nijkerk after drinking from their mothers for a few weeks.
Normally, Jersey steers are removed two weeks after birth, slaughtered and processed into animal feed. This is a method of animal husbandry that is increasingly rejected by society and seen as unethical. We fully agree and want to set an example of how things can be done differently. The calves are too small for conventional calf fattening. The calves born at Willig in 2021 were the first group cared for at DID-IT's farm, De Braamstruik.
From 2021 to mid-2023, there are now 8 organic farmers who have delivered a total of 154 calves to the Braamstruik after first taking cared for by their mothers for a few weeks. The calves are raised with organic milk for the first few months and after 6 months they move to the Eyckenstein farm. Antibiotics are not used during breeding. The mother animals are vaccinated against serious pathogens, so that the calves receive the antibodies through the colostrum.
The animals are housed in a spacious open straw shed until the grazing season. In addition, the calves have unlimited access to organic hay and organic herbal muesli supplied by Hubert Cremer's Bio Mühle from Kleve, Germany.
An open deep litter barn with lots of straw is a healthy and very animal-friendly way of keeping calves. Even later as adults, they can show maximum natural behavior and live in small groups according to their nature. Ultimately, after a few years, this will result in exceptionally tender and tasty meat with a high Omega-3 content, which according to connoisseurs ranks as the best beef. Instead of many kilos for a low price, this is for a higher segment in terms of quality and price. We think that organic Jersey meat, from animals that are discarded after just two weeks of life in the conventional system, has absolute potential in this way, provided we are able to tell the whole story to the consumer.
There are now several organic shops and Odin organic shops that successfully sell organic Jersey meat from the Jersey bulls, who have had a beautiful outdoor life, directly to consumers who opt for less meat, but animal-friendly meat of high quality.