Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 19 April 2019

Welfare guidelines for dairy herds updated after vets raise concerns over 'excessive' herd expansion

The booklet notes the recent changes in the dairy industry emphasise the importance of mental and other aspects of the physical health of farm personnel.
The booklet notes the recent changes in the dairy industry emphasise the importance of mental and other aspects of the physical health of farm personnel.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed has launched a new booklet on welfare guidelines for dairy herds, addressing the critical factors associated with dairying, including feed, housing and labour.

The publication, produced by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council (FAWAC) entitled 'Animal Welfare Guidelines for Dairy Herds', comes following concerns were expressed by Veterinary Ireland at a meeting of the Council in 2018 on dairy cow welfare particularly regarding lack of investment in calf housing and labour issues.

It was reported at the meeting that veterinarians from UCD had in the course of their work, identified areas of concern regarding nutrition, farm labour and housing. Concern too in some instances of lack of suitable housing due to excessive herd expansion was raised.

Minister Creed today said that with the expansion of the Dairy Herd nationally this booklet will assist Irish farmers to maintain the highest standards of animal welfare. 

“It is necessary too that all those engaged in dairy farming ensure their commitment to good animal welfare practices in order to maintain Ireland’s positive animal welfare reputation. 

"This is very important given our status as a net exporter of agricultural products.

"Progress continues to be made in the area of animal welfare with ongoing efforts for further improvements acknowledged,” he said.

The booklet notes the recent changes in the dairy industry emphasise the importance of mental and other aspects of the physical health of farm personnel.

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It highlights that features of modern Irish dairying include larger herd sizes, challenges in acquiring skilled labour and volatility in milk pricing. It further states that combined with management practices such as compact calving, constraints on investment in infrastructure and handling facilities and unpredictable weather it is easy to appreciate how the demands of work may be greater than the person’s ability to cope.

"Any decision to expand a herd must start with consideration of one’s own ability to cope with the extra demands and on the ability of the enterprise to employ and source trained extra help when needed," the booklet states.

Minister Creed thanked the chairman of FAWAC, Professor Patrick Fottrell, and the members of the Council, particularly the members of the Education Sub-Group who include representatives from Veterinary Ireland, the ICMSA, and the IFA together with Department officials for their work in producing the booklet. The Minister also expressed his appreciation of the ongoing and valuable work being done by the Council and for the advice provided in the domain of animal welfare.

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