Calves Cage Free

The growing sensitivity of the public towards issues such as animal welfare and the sustainability of farms has led to the request, supported by about 1.4 million signatures of European citizens, to abandon the use of cages for various species and categories of farm animals . Following this initiative, called "End the Cage Age" (literally "ending the era of cages"), the European Commission declared its intention to gradually and completely eliminate the use of these housing systems potentially within the end of 2027, making this aspect one of the key elements of the review of animal welfare legislation scheduled for the end of 2023.

The housing of calves in individual boxes up to 8 weeks of age, which represents not only the current minimum legal limit (according to Legislative Decree 7 July 2011, n.126), but also the most common situation in the Italian production context , will therefore be able to undergo important changes in the coming years.

However, the adoption of welfare-friendly housing solutions for calves requires studies to verify their feasibility and sustainability. It is in this context that the Calves CAGE-FREE project was born – Alternative systems to the housing of pre-weaning calves in individual boxes, financed by the Lombardy Region as part of the PSR 2014-2020 Operation 16.2.01 "Pilot projects and innovation development" .

The project, launched in January 2023 and lasting 24 months, will be coordinated by Barbiselle S.R.L. Società Agricola di Quaini Paolo e Figlie, and conducted with the collaboration of Fondazione CRPA Studi Ricerche and the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences of the University of Milan.

The participation of a second company, the Società Agricola Dosso Pallavicino S.S. di Zanetti Francesco & C., site in particular of a part of the field trials.

The general objective of the project will be to verify the technical-economic sustainability of alternative solutions to housing in individual boxes for dairy calves in the pre-weaning phase, thus contributing to the creation of a new quality supply chain based on high animal welfare standards.

The main activities implemented during the two years of the project will take into consideration various aspects, including: 

  • the applicability in the field of housing calves with their mother and/or in pairs, comparing the alternative solutions with the conventional solutions in use (calves in individual boxes); 
  • the technical-economic feasibility of the various solutions for housing pre-weaning calves (individual pens, pair pens, pens with mothers, collective pens with nurse or nurse) in Lombardy; 
  • the economic impact of the elimination of housing in individual boxes on the Lombard production chain; 
  • the identification of the best marketing/sales strategies for products based on bovine milk from farms with calves housed without the use of individual boxes, as well as the verification of their commercial outlets 

The project will also include a phase of data collection to know the opinion of stakeholders on the alternatives to housing calves in individual boxes and to learn about the main types of housing widespread in Lombardy.