Dairy Cattle Code of Practice - Progress Update

Second meeting – September 30 and October 1, 2019

This meeting was focused on reviewing the following updated chapters of the Code of Practice: health (e.g. calf health, calving management), feed and water (e.g. body condition scoring, pasture feeding), and euthanasia (e.g. timelines, training). The analysis from the survey asking for top-of mind thoughts on dairy cattle welfare was reviewed again as each chapter was considered. Beyond specific updates to the Code, all sections are being looked at with an eye to adding supporting context for requirements and recommended practices and highlighting research results, particularly studies published since the release of the 2009 Code of Practice.

The co-Chair of the Scientific Committee presented research on dairy calf feeding and weaning (summarized in the 2016 Scientific Committee report for the veal Code), and this was followed by an initial discussion about possible approaches to these topics in the Code.

One strength of the current dairy Code is its inclusion of group or herd level targets, and this type of bench marking was frequently raised in the September meeting. The committee identified a need to have a dedicated discussion on group- or herd level targets to consider additional data and the potential need for a consistent approach throughout the updated Code of Practice.

As part of a preliminary discussion on pre-transport considerations, the committee heard an overview of the new transportation regulations and considered themes/recommendations from reports on cull cow management and male dairy calf marketing, recently published by the National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council.

A comparison of international dairy cattle welfare standards has been prepared and is also informing the committee’s discussions on various topics.

The next meeting has been scheduled for January.

First meeting – July 3 and 4, 2019

The Code Development Committee attended a webinar orientation on the Code development process prior to this inaugural meeting allowing more time in the in-person meeting for committee members to get to each other’s areas of expertise, establish unique strategies for reaching consensus, and discuss priorities for the updated dairy cattle Code of Practice.  

Highlights of the meeting included an overview of the dairy industry today (including regional contexts) as well as the animal care module of proAction® (Dairy Farmers of Canada’s on-farm animal welfare assessment based on the current Code of Practice).

The committee also explored the main themes from a recent online survey intended to capture top-of-mind welfare concerns for dairy cattle and noted strong overlap between public and committee input on priority topics for this iteration of the Code.

Working with the project’s Scientific Committee (who were also in attendance), a list of priority welfare issues was agreed to (available here). These topics will form the basis of the Scientific Committee’s research report (the 2009 report is available here).

The next meeting is scheduled for the fall. In advance of that meeting, the Code Development Committee will begin working on draft sections of the Code. The Scientific Committee will begin its review of research on the priority welfare issues.