The ten day old calf may have been small but, boy, could it suck. In an effort to wrangle the small bull into a camera friendly position I was advised to stick my finger in his mouth to mimic the teat. This did, temporarily, calm the young bull but the novel sensation of rasping tongue and serious suction did little for my smooth delivery to camera - did clean my nails though. He soon realised the con was on and no milk was forthcoming, at which point he started to but his head upwards in the way they bash their mum’s udders. Liveliness was forgivable as this calf, though only young, was lucky to be alive as he is a boy born of a dairy herd and 100,000 of his like are shot soon after birth.
Dairy cows need to have calves in order to produce milk and while females are useful to re-stock the herd, many of the males are unwanted. Now, British veal (or ‘rose’ due to its pinker flesh) is highly favoured both by chefs and animal welfare experts as it now has the space to run around and tastes great. But it’s still a niche market incapable of taking all the newborn bulls – so could they be grown on as beef? Compassion in World Farming think so but some farmers fear rearing an animal bred for milk yield not beef production will prove a waste of time, pasture and expensive feed.
But could there be a hi-tech solution? A note just in from the film researcher in the office promises ‘Tom can look at the screen and see sperm wriggling around’. Do not adjust you set, this is still Countryfile – but we’ll be in a lab which can split boys from girls with the artificial insemination.
Life, death, sex…what more do you want on a Sunday night?