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Industry unites behind new vision for dairy cow welfare


A ground-breaking vision for dairy cow welfare is being launched today which highlights the world-beating welfare performance on British farms and identifies where the potential for further improvement exists.

The Dairy Cow Welfare strategy has been developed by the NFU in conjunction with the British Veterinary Association, DairyCo, Holstein UK, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers and the Cattle Health and Welfare Group.

The strategy includes a ten-point industry action plan, which identifies where improvements can be made in areas such as on-farm recording of health and welfare, mastitis management, lameness prevention and consumer PR and education. The strategy also positions the dairy industry to act on the recommendations made by the Farm Animal Welfare Council last year to improve the welfare of the dairy cow.

Speaking ahead of the launch, NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said: British dairy farmers already operate to world-leading animal welfare standards but there is always room for improvement. Farmers know that a healthy cow is a productive cow.

Importantly, while the responsibility for dairy cow welfare fundamentally rests with dairy farmers, the whole supply chain benefits from good welfare standards on farm.  This strategy is unique in setting a vision and an action plan for improving welfare where everyone is expected to play their part.

Tim Brigstocke, chairman of CHAWG, said: Dairy cow welfare is one of the Cattle Health and Welfare Groups priorities for the next 12 months, and this strategy provides the focus and industry plan for how improvements can be achieved together. Our other main priorities, in farm health planning, bovine viral diarrhoea and surveillance and monitoring, are also taken into consideration in the strategy.

I look forward to working with colleagues within CHAWG and the wider industry to ensure that this strategy becomes reality, to the benefit of the British dairy herd, our farmers and ultimately, consumers.

Mr Raymond added: The launch of the strategy also follows increasing consumer interest and awareness in dairy farming and welfare issues. It is fair to say the industry does not always have the evidence base it needs to arm itself against negative allegations and this strategy is the first step in identifying any gaps in our knowledge and taking coordinated action to tackle them.

Progress made against the Welfare Strategy will be reviewed every 12 months by CHAWG.


RSPCA deputy head of Farm Animal Science John Avizienius:
The RSPCA supports the Dairy Cow Welfare Strategy. It is very encouraging to see the industry taking such a forward-thinking, coordinated approach to addressing some of the issues associated with modern dairy cow welfare.

Chief Veterinary Officer for England and Wales Nigel Gibbons:
Its heartening to see that the dairy sector has taken the initiative to develop this ambitious strategy, which acts on some of the recommendations made in FAWCs Opinion of the Welfare of the Dairy Cow. The strategy recognises the hard work already done by British dairy farmers but also identifies areas where further improvements can be made, offering practical solutions, which the whole dairy supply chain can help achieve.

The strategy has five key goals: to improve dairy cow welfare, establish a set of industry-agreed priorities, set goals and areas of responsibility, bring about recognition that welfare is dependent on stockmanship in any system, and to generate more consumer understanding and a wider positive perception of dairy cow welfare in Britain.

The ten points covered in the action plan are:

a) increased on-farm recording of production, health and welfare traits, and use of aggregate data.

b) increased use of Mastitis management plans,

c) development of cattle mobility plan,

d) campaign on understanding infertility,

e) cow nutrition,

f) promoting welfare through farm assurance,

g) better use of breeding programmes

h) informing the consumer,

i) improved industry co-ordination, and

j) preparation for the future.

More than 95 per cent of British dairy herds are members of Red Tractor Farm Assurance Dairy. These farmers abide by strict standards of food safety, animal welfare, traceability and environmental protection, and consumers can recognize dairy products from these farms by looking for the Red Tractor logo.

The FAWC report published it Opinion on the Welfare of the Dairy Cow in October 2009.

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