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21-02-2010 - New code sets out principles of dairy cattle welfare

New code sets out principles of dairy cattle welfare

The Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare, issued today by the Minister of Agriculture, encourages all farmers to adopt the highest standards of husbandry, care and handling. It sets out general principles of care and will be enhanced by industry good practice guidelines.

Developed by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), the code applies to all dairy cattle, including replacement stock and calves sent for slaughter. It covers all aspects of dairy cattle management including calving, milking, housing, food, water, and shelter.

This is the second pastoral species code of welfare. It addresses the issues of shade and shelter which, like all grazing stock, cattle need access to in hot and very cold weather and need a dry, well ventilated place to lie down each day.

The code also addresses the issue of appropriate body condition for dairy cattle. All dairy cattle need sufficient food and nutrients to be fit and healthy. The code also establishes the threshold lower body condition score of a dairy cow where urgent action has to be taken to improve its condition.

Minimum standards in this code cover:
- stockmanship and the requirement for adequate training;
- adequate daily quantities of food and water;
- requirements for adequate shade and shelter;
- appropriate design, construction and maintenance of handling and housing facilities;
- stand-off areas and feed pads;
- requirements for milking and milking equipment;
- requirements for calving;
- appropriate management of calves (including hand rearing and feeding);
- effective prevention and treatment of any ill health (including lameness);
- requirements around pre-transport selection of animals;
- emergency humane destruction procedures.

The code was drafted by a dairy industry writing group and representatives from dairy farmer, animal welfare, university and veterinary groups were consulted. NAWAC considered the views of these groups, and members of the public, before recommending to the Minister of Agriculture that the code be issued.

NAWAC Chairman John Hellstrom says the code is a culmination of a lot of hard work and reflects the proactive stance on animal welfare taken by the dairy industry.

“In a world of growing concern about animal welfare the industry and dairy farmers have shown themselves to be a model for the positive management of change. The industry should be in a good position to feel confident that dairy farmers can step up to the mark and comply with this code”.

NAWAC was established by the Animal Welfare Act 1999. The Committee has a number of prescribed functions including providing advice to the Minister on any matter pertaining to the welfare of animals, identifying research requirements, advice on legislative matters and the development of codes of welfare.

One of the purposes of a code of welfare is to establish minimum standards and recommended best practices with regard to the way in which people care for, and conduct themselves towards the animals they own or are in their charge.

The Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare 2010 is available online at: or by request from

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