let's talk farm animals

Farming’s the ‘veal’ deal for former dairy producer

By Patrick Brennan, St. Thomas Times-Journal, 07 Mar 2021

Ian Foster could easily be classed as a specialist among the ranks of
Elgin’s farming community. He’s committed a portion of his farm operation to veal production, a specialty among farmers. Raised on a dairy farm, Foster chose farming as a career and made the decision in the mid-1980s to leave dairy farming and get into veal production.

Veal are calves raised to a young age and restricted weight. They are
marketed primarily for the tender, flavourful quality of the meat, sought after as a select beef cut and particularly popular in certain ethnic markets.

Foster manages 200 veal calves on his 300-acre farm on College Line. The rest of his operation is split between corn, soybean, winter wheat
production and growing hay for horse owners.

He purchases bull dairy calves from local suppliers when they are just a few weeks old. For the first few weeks, they are fed a milk replacement product, then weaned onto calf starter feed. The calves finish their production on a corn diet until they reach 700 pounds — about seven months.

Foster said veal producers have two options to market finished calves. About 35 per cent are sold by auction, the rest are sold directly to a meat packer. “I shipped for years to a meat packer, but recently started shipping to a sales barn,” Foster said. His decision was dictated by the fact he could not get enough calves to fill a trailer to ship to a packer.

Veal calves are raised in heated barns because it’s too cold for them to stand winter conditions, Foster said.

Veal calf buyers are looking for an animal with a “clean, heavy frame”
Foster said. Fast growing muscle produces a tender meat that’s lean and very digestible. Foster points out. “It doesn’t have to hang. It doesn’t have to age,” Foster said. Foster describes the business of veal production as a farming specialty that can be a good investment on a small scale.

Market prices tend to peak at Christmas.

At his scale, managing 200 head, he feels comfortable. The operation is not as labour intensive as other forms of farming and he and his wife Connie handle everything with some part-time help.

He feels particularly comfortable being able to acquire newborn calves
locally. “I know the farms they came from,” he said. He operates on what he describes a continuous flow cycle with new calves arriving weekly and finished ones leaving just as often for market.

“I like cattle and I like working with cattle,” he said.

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Posted by FFC on July 13th, 2009 :: Filed under Consumers,Farm life,Housing,Veal
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