The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers has welcomed the European Food Safety Authority’s report on farming systems and their impact on dairy cow welfare and related diseases saying that it hopes it will encourage other EU states to come into line with the UK’s high standards.
However, the association warns that if further progress on developing and investing in high welfare systems is to be made on UK farms, then a milk price rise is essential. Defra’s average milk price for May stood at 20.6ppl, well below the 26ppl cost of production.
“The majority of the 284 page report is common sense; farmers are aware of good welfare because healthy cows lead to healthy profits,” commented RABDF vice chairman, David Cotton. “The report features tie stalls which UK government legislated against years ago, therefore in that respect some other EU states are lagging behind.”
The five-part report concluded that long term genetic selection for higher milk yield and the type of farming system adopted are major factors affecting cow health and welfare. “That may be the theoretical case, however unless farmers have both the ability and confidence to invest, the environment in which the cow lives cannot continually be redesigned and rebuilt to suit. An average monthly milk price of 20.6ppl plainly won’t allow that.
“In fact the UK dairy sector has united to adopt the same goals and is continually working to improve animal welfare; 95% of British dairy farms comply with Assured Dairy Farms standards which include provisions for herd health plans. These are constantly evolving and I’m sure this report will be thoroughly considered in the future. In addition, the Farm Health Planning initiative coupled with groups such as the England Cattle Health and Welfare Group (ECHWG) have been making progress to ensure animal welfare is a priority.”
He added: “If anything this report will ensure the UK dairy sector doesn’t rest on its laurels. RABDF and other industry bodies will work together through groups like ECHAWG to develop an industry strategy which will ensure that farming systems and environments work in harmony with the dairy cow.
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