Dairy Council

Animal Welfare

Animal Welfare

Dairy Farmers ensure their cows maintain good health, happiness & well being.

Owners and keepers of farmed animals are required to comply fully with domestic legislation (The Welfare of Farmed Animals (NI) Regulations 2012), which sets down minimum standards for keeping farm animals and contains specific and comprehensive requirements such as inspections, record keeping, freedom of movement, buildings, equipment and the feeding and watering of animals. DAERA is responsible for assuring the health and welfare of farmed animals.

The Dairy Cattle Code of Practice for the Welfare of Livestock (2013) provides advice and guidance for the upkeep of farm animals in accordance with legislation. This is one of a series of sector specific codes of practice produced by DAERA. Livestock farmers and employers are required by law to ensure that all those attending to their livestock are familiar with, and have access to, the relevant codes.

Dairy farmers must ensure cows maintain a good level of health, happiness and wellbeing so that they can function at their best. A good standard of animal welfare can have a number of positive outcomes including: an increased milk production, increased consumer confidence in dairy products, and the prevention of disease in both humans and
animals. In addition, a number of farmers’ organisations and milk producers in the United Kingdom have jointly agreed to adopt the Animal Welfare and Quality Assurance Code of Practice. The Code of practice sets out the standards expected of farmers in the United Kingdom, and covers issues such as Stockmanship, Milking, Nutrition, Housing, Animal Health, Transport and the Five Freedoms.


Codes of practice are set to ensure that those responsible for the care of animals (stockmen) on dairy farms are experienced and trained in caring for animals. In addition to being fully familiar with the Codes of Recommendation for the welfare of cattle and with the Five Freedom, they must also be able to recognise and react to various situations which may arise regarding the welfare of cattle and must keep full and accurate stock records.


Codes of practice set for milking cover issues such as dairy farmers providing acceptable levels of hygiene, effective, safe and hygienic milking machinery/facilities and the effective monitoring of milk tests. The codes of practice also state that cows must be regularly milked to avoid discomfort.


Codes of practice in relation to nutrition state that dairy farmers must ensure cattle receive a balanced diet and a fresh supply of water. Farmers must also be aware of the traceability of cattle’s food, and all foodstuffs must comply with current UK and EU legislation.


Minimal standards are set for dairy farmers on how dairy cows are housed. Codes of practice include expectations on issues such as the size, temperatures, insect and vermin control, and hygiene of accommodation for cattle.


Dairy farmers also have to follow codes of practice for the health of their dairy herds. The Codes state that all cattle should be kept in good health and checked regularly for any signs of illness or distress. Farmers should also be aware of the industry wide Five Point plan and follow set procedures for the prevention, detection and control of mastitis.


Dairy farmers must ensure that they entrust the care of their livestock leaving their farm only to persons they consider capable of safeguarding their welfare and ensure that cattle are properly looked after when being transported at all times.


The Five Freedoms are the key to good stockmanship on dairy farms. Under the Five Freedoms dairy farmers should ensure cattle are free from:

  • Hunger and thirst (by providing fresh water and a nutritious diet)
  • Discomfort (by providing good shelter and a comfortable resting area)
  • Pain, injury and disease (by prevention and effective diagnosis and treatment)
  • Fear and distress (by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering)
  • Express normal behaviour (by giving them sufficient space, proper facilities an company of the animal’s own kind)

Dr Mike Johnston

+44 (0)28 9077 0113

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Dairy Council

Shaftsbury House
Edgewater Office Pk
Edgewater Rd
Belfast Bt3 9JQ
Northern Ireland

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