Farm Life - Animal Health and Welfare

May 26, 2017

Farm animal welfare is a significant issue in Australia and overseas, and consumers are increasingly interested in knowing that a high standard of animal welfare is maintained throughout the supply chain of products they purchase.

Healthy and well cared for cows are a priority for every dairy farmer as it is central to having a successful and sustainable dairy farm.

There are many on-farm practices that have been part of dairy farming for hundreds of years and we must ensure we have a social license from consumers to continue the practices. We recognise that some things that happen on-farm can be confronting to people who are not farmers and may not understand the reason behind them. It is up to us to ensure the public understand what we do, why we do it and that at the core of every farmer is the health and wellbeing of their animals.

As an industry, we take our responsibilities for animal welfare seriously and are committed to continuous improvement of our animal husbandry practices. All farm animals must be treated with care.

We want our consumers to know farmers, processors, transporters and meat processors actively engage with each other to ensure all cows and calves are treated humanely.

The Australian dairy industry supports the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle as well as the Land Transport Standards and Guidelines. These were developed in partnership with the animal welfare groups and Government, and provide the industry with a clear vision that the welfare of all animals in Australia is promoted and protected by the adoption of sound animal welfare standards and practices.

We are continuously working to improve animal welfare standards to ensure we meet consumer and public expectations and expect all persons managing livestock abide by these standards to ensure best practice is observed on-farm.

It is a priority of the dairy industry to regularly review policies and practices in line with public perceptions and to invest in ongoing national training and education to ensure farmers constantly strive to go above and beyond the agreed standard.

ADF, in collaboration with Dairy Australia, and other industry partners continue to work with industry, Government and animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA to ensure the wellbeing of our herds in all farming systems.

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer


Caring for cows and calves is our first priority

Mar 23, 2016

Dairy farmers know that providing a safe, nutritious product starts and ends with caring for cows and their calves. This includes providing them a healthy diet, regular medical care and the right living conditions.

Part of keeping dairy cows and calves healthy involves separating calves from cows within their first 12 to 24 hours. This is to ensure the calves receive adequate colostrum, are protected from illnesses, which can be spread by manure from adult cows for example.

Once removed from the cow, calves are raised under shelter with suitable bedding in a clean, safe and warm environment.

In cattle the placenta of the cow keeps the maternal blood supply separate from that of the unborn calf. This prevents the transfer of antibodies from the cow to the calf before birth. For this reason, the calf is born with limited ability to fight disease.

By bringing the calves indoors, the farmer can make sure they receive at least two litres of colostrum at the first feed and another two litres within the first 24 hours of life. This ensure the calf can build its immunity. Calves left to suckle are less likely to build up their immunity.

Individual care is the key to a healthy and content calf.

Although many dairy farmers would like to raise male calves on farm, there are currently very limited alternative markets to sell the male calves to. The most common option for farmers, is to sell them as ‘bobby calves’ between 5 and 30 days of age. Another option is to rear the calves and sell them as dairy-beef. This option requires significant investment by farmers with the need to provide additional housing, feed and labour.

Our industry is always searching for alternatives, including through sexed-semen to reduce the number of male calves born but this does mean we need to have a market for the additional female calves. Further, we continue to explore market options for the sale of male calves.

Dairy farmers and the dairy industry understand that the practice of killing calves for the dairy-beef market is confronting. We take care of all animals on-farm to the best of our ability and in line with best practice; no calf is ever treated as a low-value by-product. Once calves leave the farm, we expect that they will be cared for and treated in a humane way.

The Australian dairy industry supports the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle as well as the Land Transport Standards and Guidelines. These were developed in partnership with animal welfare groups and Government, and provide industry with clear animal health and welfare standards.

The dairy industry expects that all persons managing livestock abide by these standards and it is committed to working with farmers to ensure best practice is observed on farm.

ADF, in collaboration with Dairy Australia, and other industry partners continues to work closely with transporters and the meat industry to ensure our cows and calves are well looked after. We also continue to work with industry, Government and animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA to ensure the wellbeing of our herds in all farming systems.

For further information on the Animal Health and Welfare Standards and Guidelines, click here. To view the publication, “Rearing Healthy Calves – How to raise calves that thrive”, click here.

New target for routine calving induction in 2016

Jan 25, 2016

Key Points 

  • National policy to phase out calving induction 
  • Improved breeding programs to lift fertility and support farmers through the policy change
  • Learning from NZ approach
  • Targeted assistance and advice to be provided to farmers impacted

Caring for cows is always a key priority for Australian dairy farmers and our industry. The industry is dedicated to providing a high standard of care for our animals, and to changing practices when in the best interests of our livestock. 

In April 2015, following a series of meetings and consultation with farmers, vets and processors the dairy industry agreed to phase-out routine calving induction nationally.

Revised Policy

Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF), Dairy Australia, vets and processors have since been working on implementing the revised policy which is:

“ADF does not support routine calving induction and will work to phase it out through improved herd improvement practices, tools and technologies.”

Calving induction is already reducing in Australia and the dairy industry’s breeding programs such as InCalf and the improvement of fertility by genetic selection are making a difference.

A Steering Group, including dairy farmers, representatives from the Australian Cattle Veterinarians, Dairy Australia and the Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF), was established to progress the phase-out.

A data survey of veterinary practices performing inductions was undertaken in 2015. The results confirm estimates from previous farmer surveys that the number of cows induced is declining. It is estimated that in 2015 less than 1.5% of the national herd were induced (approximately 24,000 cows) however there is considerable variation between farms and regions.

The industry is now working to reduce even further the number of cows induced.

Target for 2016

After reviewing the 2015 induction data, ADFwill introduce a target for 2016 that routine calving induction will be limited to a maximum of 15% of cows within a herd unless a dispensation has been granted.

The 15% limit will apply unless a fertility management plan has been implemented or dispensation is granted for exceptional circumstances beyond a farmers control such as herd health issues, severe weather events (floods, fire), AB failure as well as other issues.

An 'Oversight and Engagement' Panel including representatives from ADF, the Australian Cattle Vets and ADPF has been formed. The panel, with support from Dairy Australia, will establish guidelines and consider requests for exemptions exceeding the 15% target set for 2016. Whilst there is no legal requirement on dairy farmers to achieve the 15% target the dairy industry is seeking to achieve industry-wide practice that is over and above the legal requirements and is confident farmers will adopt the recommended voluntary industry targets as the phase-out progresses.

Farmers will apply to the Oversight and Engagement Panel via their vet for special dispensation to carry out inductions in excess of the 15% limit for routine calving inductions.

The Steering Group will work with the Oversight and Engagement Panel to monitor progress and review the target each year in order to establish updated annual targets.

Industry Programs

Improving herd fertility is a fundamental requirement to reduce the need for routine calving induction and it also delivers many benefits for farm profitability and resilience. The industry is working closely with veterinarians and reproduction advisors to ensure advice and services are available to assist farmers with fertility management.

Industry programs such as InCalf, the Repro Right network and InCharge Workshops will be enhanced and the industry will provide targeted reproduction advice to those farmers most in need.

New Zealand

The New Zealand dairy industry has phased out routine calving induction over a period of time and has banned the practice as of 1 June 2015. The industry is liaising with counterparts in New Zealand to understand and learn from their approach; in particular the setting of annual limits with a dispensation process.

Late Calving Induction

A particular concern recognised by industry has been the use of late calving induction. ADF is aware that several veterinary practices no longer perform late calving inductions, as they provide no reproductive benefit. Late inductions (performed within 4-6 weeks of the due calving date) provide no overall reproductive benefit for the herd and should not be performed except for the welfare of the cow or her calf.

Early pregnancy testing is required by these practices to make sure late inductions are not occurring.

ADF will continue to consult with farmers, veterinarians, state organisations and other stakeholders to ensure that the timing, process and outcomes are right for animals and farmers.

*Routine calving induction is all non-therapeutic inductions


Social licence on the front foot

May 04, 2015

Having social licence to operate requires Australian dairy to be proactive, honest and willing to change practices. Likened to building up a bank of goodwill and trust that can be drawn on from consumers, customers and the community when issues arise, social licence is what we continue to maintain and grow as an industry.

At the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria’s (UDV) Annual Conference held in Melbourne on 29 April, social licence was placed at the top of the agenda and a range of issues were discussed and debated, including animal welfare.

Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) Egg Group President and established national egg wholesaler, Brian Ahmed spoke to the conference of 100 delegates about his personal dealings with animal activism.

Mr Ahmed also spoke about the growing disconnect between rural and metropolitan communities being a reason for “big business” animal activism today, and the importance of agricultural commodities uniting together to communicate our animal husbandry and production practices directly with the community.

“These days it is very easy for city-dwellers to assume they know everything about farming through Google...the only way we’re going to get our message out there is by doing it ourselves.

“We need to start campaigning now by focussing on doing the ‘right thing’ and ‘proving it’ in order to change the perceptions of the community five to 10 years down the track,” Mr Ahmed said.

The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) CEO, Alison Penfold also shared her industry’s experiences with animal activism following the fallout from the ABC Four Corners feature story, “Another Bloody Business” in 2011. Depicting disturbing animal cruelty footage captured in Indonesian abattoirs, the feature ignited public outrage and prompted the Federal Government to place a ban on live exports to Indonesia.

Ms Penfold explained when ALEC failed to face many of the industry’s emerging issues at the time, they fell short of the Australian community’s expectations and left them with the view the live export industry was uncaring towards the animals in its charge. However, since then ALEC has been working hard to earn back the community’s trust.

“The biggest challenge is taking the community along with us. Transparency can be scary at times, but it is also imperative if we are to be honest with ourselves and those around us.

“It’s so important we openly acknowledge where we are now and where we would like to be. By simply telling the positive stories, you can be accused of ‘spin doctoring’,” Ms Penfold explained.

Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) President, Noel Campbell who also presented at the conference, spoke about phasing out calving induction as an example of how the Australian dairy industry is proactively working to meet community expectations.

“As a farming community, we understand calving induction has played an important role in breeding management on our dairy farms, and that this enables us to perform more efficiently. Yet it is no secret that many consumers find induction and its consequences to be unnecessary.

“The phase out of calving induction is high on ADF’s agenda and we are committed to working with farmers to help make this transition,” Mr Campbell said.

Other aspects of social licence discussed included use of genetically modified crops and mining of coal-seam gas on productive farms, which Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF) Executive Director, Dr Peter Stahle provided the dairy processors’ perspective on.

L-R: SADA President, David Basham, VFF Egg Group President, Brian Ahmed and UDV President, Adam Jenkins enjoying breakfast at the UDV Annual Conference.

ADF President, Noel Campbell: Working to support dairy farmers in actively phasing out calving induction .

ALEC CEO, Alison Penfold: Sharing the livestock industry's experience with animal activism.

Select Tags