The Good Dairy Award recognises companies that use or are committing (within 5 years) to use higher welfare dairy systems for cows and calves.
To date, more than 291 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 37 million in the EU-28, 9 million in the USA and around 1.85 million in the UK. Commercial milk production is increasing rapidly in southern Asia, including countries that have not traditionally consumed a high volume of milk, such as China.
Developed countries typically use cows from specialised milking breeds. The Holstein-Friesian is the dominant breed in the UK and much of Europe and more than 90% of the USA herd are Holsteins – many of them pure Holsteins.
There is a wide variety of dairy production systems in the EU, ranging from permanently housed systems to extensive outdoor systems with rudimentary or no shelter. One of the most common systems in the EU is seasonal grazing with winter housing. 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 Approved and Soil Association through their Assurewel project) are developing systems that monitor and set targets for 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 (to give the calves visual and tactile contact with other calves), and they must have sufficient space to exercise, be fed colostrum within 6 hours of birth, be fed twice a day, and be provided with sufficient iron and fibre in their diet.