Organic systems (Commission Regulation 889/2008 EC) ensure dairy cows have access to pasture grazing in the grass growing season and that at least 60% (dry matter) of the cows ration is from roughage (either fresh or dried fodder or silage). Minimal indoor and outdoor areas are 6m2/cow and 4.5m2/cow, respectively, with a limit of 2 cows/ha to comply with nitrogen input limits on the land. Individual penning of dairy calves is prohibited after one week of age.
RSPCA Assured is the only non-organic certified assurance scheme in the UK that stipulates grazing in the grass growing season for dairy cows.
Dairy cows can have a longer productive life and better quality of life in well managed systems based on pasture access in the grass growing season, whilst cows bred for lower genetic potential milk yield are likely to be healthier and their calves more suited for rearing for meat.