The Good Dairy Award launched in 2011 and celebrates companies that use or are committing to use higher welfare dairy systems for cows and calves. In its inaugural year, more than 300 thousand dairy cows and calves are set to benefit each year as a result of our award winners’ policies.
There are over 250 million cows used to produce milk in the world, including around 24 million in the EU-27, 9 million in the USA and around 1.85 million in the UK. Commercial milk production is increasing rapidly in southern Asia, including in countries that have not traditionally consumed milk, such as China. Developed countries typically use cows from specialised milking breeds. The Holstein-Friesian is the dominant breed in the USA, UK and much of Europe. There is a wide variety of dairy production systems in the EU, ranging from permanently housed systems to extensive outdoor systems with rudimentary shelter. Cow accommodation is typically in cubicle systems or straw yards, although tethering is still permitted and common in some countries.
There is no specific EU Directive setting out minimum conditions for the protection of dairy cows. Some assurance schemes (e.g. RSPCA Freedom Food™ and Soil Association through their Assurewel project) are developing systems that monitor and set targets for the improvement in key outcome measures such as the incidence of lameness, mastitis, and poor body condition. Minimum conditions for the protection of dairy calves are set out in Council Directive 2008/119/EC. Calves must not be reared in individual pens after 8 weeks of age, individual pens must not have solid walls, and calves must have sufficient space for exercise, be fed colostrum within 6 hours of birth, be fed twice a day, and provided with sufficient iron and fibre in their diet.