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Cattle: Animal Welfare

Volume 507: debated on Wednesday 17 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which assessment has been made of the effects on animal welfare of keeping dairy cattle in (a) very large herds and (b) herds kept largely under a roof. (321319)

DEFRA is currently funding a three- year project by the Scottish Agricultural College which is investigating the management and welfare of continuously housed cows. It will compare the health of cows in continuously housed systems with those in summer grazing systems, by using culling and fertility data. Work on this research is at an early stage, and is due to be completed at the end of June 2011.

In relation to herd sizes, in reviewing its risk model for welfare inspections, Animal Health, the body responsible for enforcing animal welfare legislation in England, did not include the size of the herd as a predictive factor to the model as no correlation was found between the size of the herd and compliance with welfare legislation and welfare advisory codes.

All dairy cattle, in whatever system they are kept, are protected by comprehensive animal welfare legislation. In England, the welfare of cattle is protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal. The Act also contains a duty of care to animals—this means that anyone responsible for an animal must take reasonable steps to make sure the animal’s needs are met. These general requirements are supplemented by detailed requirements in the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 for calves and cattle such as accommodation, tethering, inspection, feed and water.

Poor welfare can exist in both intensive and extensive systems. The most significant influence on the welfare of livestock is the stock-keeper, not the system in which is it reared.