How to produce veal from dairy bred calves

If you are considering the veal market for your dairy beef, your calves will need to be less than eight months old at slaughter. See how to produce veal from dairy-bred calves and how good decisions on feed can give you better returns.

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What is legally classed as veal?

For meat to be legally classed as veal, the cattle must have been less than eight months old at slaughter.

There are two types of veal:

  • Rosé veal (always RSPCA labelled) – meat from calves over six months old that have had fibre included in their diet, hence the darker colour of the meat
  • White veal – calves that have only been fed milk

Rosé veal is much more popular in the UK, making up approximately 95% of the veal market. White veal is more popular on the continent.

Things to consider with veal production

Before setting up a veal production system, you should secure a market outlet and work out the likely costs of production.

For example, when the market price for beef is high, you may get a greater financial return by keeping animals longer and finishing them heavier.

Always try to find a market for the whole carcase, not just the premium cuts.

See our advice on choosing the best dairy beef rearing system for your farm and more about how to plan, monitor and market finished cattle.

How to choose a dairy beef rearing system

How to plan, monitor and market dairy beef

Castration is not necessary with veal.

Targets for veal production

Our table below shows example performance targets for veal production, including their growth rate per day, liveweight at slaughter, carcase weight and classification.

Table 1. Example performance targets for veal

Target 6–8-month 10-month
Lifetime growth 
rate (kg/day)
1.2–1.4 1.2–1.4
Liveweight at 
slaughter (kg)
250–300 400–420
weight (kg)
115–150 200–215
-O2 -O2
Days to
210 300

How to feed calves reared for veal for better returns

Calves being reared for veal production can be fed a high-energy milk replacer throughout their life or until weaning. This milk replacer can be up to 15 megajoules of metabolic energy per kilogram (MJ ME/kg).

You can supplement milk replacers with a concentrate blend, such as calf starter pellets or coarse mix with ad-lib straw.

Finishing diets for veal

Veal finishing diets can vary according to availability of feed and cost.  

However, the diet should be high in starch to promote muscle growth rather than frame.

Common finishing diets for veal:

  • High in starch
  • Often a cereal-based mix
  • Maize silage can be included: +11 ME MJ/kg in dry matter
  • Overall ration should contain 16% crude protein in dry matter

Avoid grass-based feeds for finishing veal.  

Offer straw to calves throughout to provide fibre for more efficient functioning of the animal’s rumen.

Whatever diet is used, you must supply all the necessary vitamins and minerals for health and growth.

Once the calves have transitioned onto concentrates or rolled cereal, intakes can be up to 2 kg per day by the time they reach six or seven months.

As with all calves, cattle being reared for veal production must have the best start in life. See our general nutritional guidance for dairy beef calves, which includes how to support the transition to new feed.

Nutritional guidance for dairy beef calves

Meeting RSPCA veal welfare standards

On RSPCA Assured farms, calves must have enrichment from six weeks of age, deep straw bedding and sufficient iron and fibre in the diet.

The law in the UK requires all calves to be housed in groups by eight weeks of age.

For more information on the welfare of calves, see page 56 of the RSPCA’s welfare standards for dairy calves. 

Useful links

Access the ‘Dairy beef production systems' manual, for further practical advice

If you would like to order a hard copy of the Dairy beef production systems manual, please contact or call 0247 799 0069.