Health and welfare of dairy cows

“A happy and healthy cow is a productive cow. Farmer’s cows may be here to produce milk but we want them to have a really good life while they do it.” Says – Karen Lancaster,  a cow behavioural expert. Caring for their cows is the number one priority for dairy farmers. But how do they do it?

The majority of British dairy cows graze outdoors during the summer and stay indoors during the winter. Barns are extremely spacious and airy – dairy farmers know that cows like to move around and socialise, so they make sure there is plenty of space for exercise as well as rest. Providing cows with nutritious feed is also important. Cows need a healthy, balanced diet in order to produce milk, so dairy farmers work with nutritionists to create special diet plans for them. Most dairy cows eat grass in summer and silage (preserved grass or maize) and cereals, protein feeds, vitamins and minerals in winter. Grass does not grow during this period due to the cold weather and most cows, like us, would rather be inside with plenty of food.

Like the nutritionist, vets are also highly valued members of the dairy farm team. They make regular visits to the farm to make sure the cows are healthy, and work with farmers to create a herd health plan. Meet a farm vet to find out more about herd health plans. You may have seen the Red Tractor symbol on milk and other dairy products in your local supermarket. The symbol means that the milk has been produced according to the standards of the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Dairy Scheme.

Developed by dairy farmers, processors, the National Farmers Union and the British Cattle Veterinary Association, the scheme sets higher standards for quality and welfare than any other major dairy producing nation. It is monitored by independent auditors and certain standards ensure that cows have ready access to nutritious feed and fresh water, spacious and comfortable barns and pastures and the best veterinary care. The vast majority of British dairy farmers are members of the scheme and most processors who buy the milk from the farmer insist on it.

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Other Relevant Organisations

The Dairy Industry Federation (DIF)

The Dairy Industry Federation (DIF) represents the interests of processors of liquid milk and manufacturers of dairy products. Its 60 members process approximately 90% of themilk produced in England and Wales. The DIF also runs the industry’s National Training Organisation (The Dairy Training and Development Council), a package waste compliance scheme (DIFPAK), a Climate Change Levy rebate initiative (Dairy Energy Savings Ltd), and is represented on the Board’s of the National Dairy Farm Assured Scheme and the National Dairy Council, both being joint ventures with milk producers.

Assured Dairy Farms (ADF):

The standards of Assured Dairy Farms (ADF) – formerly known as NDFAS – have been developed to address the concerns of all the interested parties in the milk supply chain. Consumers and retailers need to be reassured that standards are being achieved to provide confidence about the production methods and the safety and quality of milk leaving the farm premises. Dairy farmers wish to see a straightforward practical and cost-effective set of standards in order to deliver this

Dairy UK:

Dairy UK has brought together dairy processors, farming representatives, co-ops and bottle milk buyers to form an organisation that embraces and gives full priority to the views and opinions of all those involved the industry. It is an organisation committed to demonstrating clarity of purpose and strength of message. A significant factor in the creation of Dairy UK was an industry-wide desire to provide a range of services focused on the needs of modern dairy businesses. A clear focus on the needs of the industry will ensure that they are not compromised or diluted – as can happen when its interests are subject to negotiation within the wider context of the food industry. In increasingly competitive market conditions, it is in the interest of all within the industry for the businesses of producers and processors to be sustainable and profitable. Over the next decade, new challenges will emerge which the dairy sector must overcome in order to ensure its profitability. The sector needs to tighten co-operation and efficiency throughout the supply chain and address the challenges presented by the current round of CAP reform. Any new WTO agreement may necessitate even further reform.

The British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA):

The BCVA is the cattle specialist division of the British Veterinary Association. The main activities of the association centre around providing around 1300 members with information and education on relevant issues. The BCVA Congress is held in the autumn and training courses are run throughout the year at various locations. The proceedings of these meetings are published in the Association’s journal ‘Cattle Practice’ which also contains relevant papers from other related meetings held throughout the year.

The Food Standards Agency:

The FSA is an independent Government department set up by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect the public’s health and consumer interests in relation to food. Everything they do reflects their vision of Safe food and healthy eating for all. The core purpose of the Food Standards Agency is to protect public health and reduce food borne illness. The Agency is a UK-wide body, a non-ministerial Government department operating at arm’s length from Ministers and governed by a Board appointed to act in the public interest. Food safety and standards are devolved matters and they are accountable to the Westminster Parliament and to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through the relevant Health Ministers. FSA offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ensure our priorities are delivered within a country specific context.

Each office also has its own distinct areas of work and the Food

Advisory Committees in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland provide them with advice and information on safety and standards issues relating to each country.

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers:

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) is the only independent organisation dedicated to representing the interests of British dairy farmers. The RABDF strives to improve the status and well-being of British dairy farmers and the British dairy industry through the provision of technical information, training and lobbying activities.

The Dairy Council:

The Dairy Council is a non-profit making organisation which provides science-based information on the role of dairy foods as part of a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle. They provide evidenced based information to health professionals, the media, industry and consumers. The Dairy Council is funded by farmers and processors via Dairy Co and Dairy UK.