New opportunities for surplus Jersey bull calves. The Jersey is a small stubborn cow that produces extra full and delicious 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 propensity to put on (much) meat.
This makes them of no interest to the veal calf trade. "That's a shame, because we believe bull calves should absolutely not be a waste product. In order to give milk, a cow must give birth to a calf once a year, and so it is inevitable that bull calves will also be born. Fifty percent of calves born are bull calves. DID-IT bv in Nijkerk therefore began as a pioneer, together with the organic Jersey dairy farm of the Henri Willig family in Katwoude, a project that takes in Jersey bull calves and feeds them organic milk during the first three months of their lives in the potting shed of the organic DID-IT farm on the Voorthuizerweg in Nijkerk. Thereafter, the animals switch completely to organic roughage and pasture grass and remain on the farm until the age of 20 to 24 months to grow into full-fledged meat animals. There are 20 dairy farms (keepers) in the Netherlands that keep Jerseys, five of which are organic farms, Willig being one of them.
Normally Jersey bull calves 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 endorse this and want to set an example of how things can be done differently. At Willig's farm, approximately 20 purebred Jersey bull calves are born each year. As mentioned, the calves are too small for conventional calf farming, so they are not purchased for that purpose. Calves born at Willig in February, March and April will be taken in at DID-IT's farm for the first time this year (2021). Antibiotics are not used during rearing. In a spacious straw potting shed, the animals are housed until the grazing season. In addition, the calves have unlimited access to organic hay and organic herb muesli supplied by the Bio Mühle of Hubert Cremer of Kleve, Germany. Because DID-IT wants to keep the farm on Voorthuizerweg open to the public (including school children), it was decided to keep the animals as oxen, i.e. castrated because this provides more safety. Oxen are calmer and have much less urge to fight in groups and consequently injure each other with their horns. Keeping adult and non-castrated bulls in a large open pen where visitors and caretakers can come into direct contact with the animals is too great a risk. An open potting shed with plenty 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 according to their nature in small groups. Eventually, after more than a year and a half, this will result in exceptionally tender and flavorful meat with a high Omega-3 content that experts say is the best. Instead of many pounds for a low price, this is a higher end in quality and price. We think organic Jersey meat, from animals that in the conventional system are discarded after barely two weeks of life, has absolute potential in this way provided we are able to tell the whole story to the consumer.