Pasture based fattening of male dairy calves – an option for the future?


 (c) Thünen-Institut/Jacqueline Felix

Investigations to make male dairy calves more valuable to dairy farmers

The demand for organic beef is increasing but most of the male calves from organic dairy farms are sold to conventional fattening units. This is criticized by consumers as well as organic dairy farmers.

Background and Objective

Besides heifer calves which are usually used for the reproduction of the dairy herd, there is always a number of male diary calves. These calves are mostly sold to fattening farms. Until now there are only a few fattening units that work according to standards of organic farming. Thus, the organic dairy bull calves are usually not market to appropriate prizes. This goes especially for bulls of pure dairy breeds. Though the losses of income might be reduced by the use of sexed semen and crossbreeds, they cannot be excluded completely. In addition, the conditions on conventional operated fattening farms are far from the organic standards. This applies in particular for veal production systems. Therefore, the project focusses on pasture based veal production as a possible option to use bull calves from dairy production systems. In various experiments we will investigate whether veal production by grazing is feasible, how the carcass quality will and if that production system has an effect on drug use during the fattening period. Further questions address the pasture quality and if it affects the animals’ performance.


Male dairy calves of different origins are raised by whole milk for three months according to the EC legislation 834 and afterwards grazed on pastures owned by the research institute until an age of 6 to 8 month. Concentrate feed is limited to 500 g per calf and day and helps to establish and keep a  good human-animal-relationship. Pasture is provided following a strip grazing system. Animals are weighed regularly and feaces samples are collected for analyses on infections with endoparasites. Animals are slaughtered in an abattoir near the experimental farm and data on carcass and meat quality will be collected. Besides different breeds (German Holstein, Jersey and crossbreeds), two different pasture qualities will be analysed  concerning their effect on the outcome variables.


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners


4.2016 - 12.2022

More Information

Projekt type:
Project status: ongoing


hits: 1

  1. Barth K, Simon G, Kälber T (2019) Erste Untersuchungen zur Weidemast männlicher Milchviehkälber. In: Mühlrath D, Albrecht J, Finckh M, Hamm U, Heß J, Knierim U, Möller D (eds) Innovatives Denken für eine nachhaltige Land- und Ernährungswirtschaft : Beiträge zur 15. Wissenschaftstagung Ökologischer Landbau ; Kassel, 5. bis 8. März 2019. Berlin: Köster, pp 250-251