Minimum Standards For Dairy Farms
Posted: Jun 19, 2017
Cows are usually housed in dairy farms shed design but the so-called hindered stalls, where cows are attached, are still allowed and common in some countries. There are still systems where cows are attached in winter, especially in mountain areas. There is no laying down minimum standards for the protection of dairy cows, as for laying hens, for example. Some specifications develop systems for assessing animal welfare in dairy farms based on the monitoring of key performance indicators and the setting of targets to improve lameness, mastitis, and condition fattening of animals.
The dairy breed Prim'Holstein, specialized in the production of milk, is the dominant breed in many countries. High yielding dairy cows are often prone to lameness, mastitis, and other functional disorders. While a suckle cow (high for its meat) naturally produces about 4 litres of milk per day, a dairy cow produces an average of 28 litres of milk per day over a period of 10 months. During the peak of lactation, high yielding dairy cows can produce up to 60 litres per day and up to 12,000 litres throughout their lactation. Mastitis (infection of the udder) and fertility problems are also common. Given the intense pace of production imposed on dairy cows, they have a very short productive life expectancy. Dairy cows are usually reformed (slaughtered) early, after their third lactation on average. In the natural state, a dairy cow can live up to 20 years.
Most farms are still family owned with an average of 45 dairy cows and access to pasture. However, there are mega-livestock projects where cows are no longer counted by tens but by hundreds or thousands. As a result of this drastic change in scale, it is impossible for these farms to have access to the pasture and the cows remain enclosed throughout the year. These farms are widely criticized because of the risks they pose to the environment, landscape, employment, respect for rural areas and, of course, animal welfare.
In order to produce enough milk, cows must give birth to one calf every year from the age of two. They are usually inseminated artificially three months after calving. Calves are withdrawn one or two days after birth. These dairy calves are then bred for the calf market, usually in intensive systems. Often they do not get enough colostrums and therefore have a weakened immune system, which does not allow them to resist infections and diseases adequately.
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