Providing best care for all our animals

Striving for health, welfare and best care for all our animals throughout their lives

In 2018, our commitment to dairy sustainability was strengthened by using a fourth pillar; striving for health, welfare and best care for all our animals throughout their life. It is our commitment to recognise community standards around how our industry adopts welfare practices that improve conditions and health issues affecting our farm animals.

Our challenges and opportunities

The health and wellbeing of animals is critical to the Australian dairy industry. Appropriate care for our animals is essential not only to the success of every farming business, but our moral responsibility. It is an expectation of our customers and stakeholders.

The Dairy Matters communications approach being implemented by Dairy Australia is highlighting the industry’s values and standards and recognising public expectations and values. 

Preventative health, care of calves, biosecurity, antimicrobial stewardship are all priorities of the Australian dairy industry.

Our challenge is to continue to improve our practices and report transparently on how we are progressing and where we need to do more to ensure we maintain and enhance community trust in how dairy products are made.

Goal 7 - Provide best care for all animals for whole of life

Animal health and wellbeing remains a key focus for the industry. The 2019 Genetics and Animal Husbandry Survey provides the latest data on farm practices, including practices that are no longer supported and being phased out by the industry. The survey indicates improved performance trends in animal welfare practices across the industry.

How we performed in 2019:

  • The proportion of dairy farmers who dock tails for management purposes continues to trend downwards and is a significant 5% lower than in 2016, taking it to 4% in 2019.
  • Approximately 96% of respondent farms have infrastructure to keep cows cool (up significantly from 92% in 2016).
  • Antibiotics are typically sourced through a single vet (85%).
  • All survey respondents administering antibiotics either always (81%) or mostly (9%) follow prescribed label directions.
  • The 2019 Dairy Trust Tracker Survey indicated that 74% of consumers believe that dairy farmers do a good job caring for animals. This figure reflects an upward trend – increasing 2% from 2018 and 16% from the 2016 baseline year where it was 58%.

Key initiatives

These initiatives are driving change in providing best care for all our animals.

  • Animal health and welfare policy

    The ADF’s Policy Advisory Group (PAG) aims to maintain and improve Australia’s animal health and welfare system, as well as the industry’s emergency response capability, through cooperative programs aligned with other industries and governments.

  • Monitoring animal husbandry practices

    The Genetics and Animal Husbandry Survey was conducted in 2019 and monitors dairy farmers’ animal health and welfare practices. The results highlight the many significant improvements being made on dairy farms related to the implementation of recommended industry practices, as well as identifying where further improvement is required.
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle

    The guidelines have been adopted by the dairy industry who advocate that they must be met by all dairy farmers. They cover the full range of on-farm management practices for cows and their welfare considerations.

  • Industry workshops

    Regular workshops are held on lameness, healthy calves, rearing newborn and young stock, fertility programs, low stress calving, humane euthanasia of livestock and many more areas.

  • Biosecurity Plan Tool

    All farms must have a biosecurity plan to meet the dairy sector’s commitment to Emergency Animal Disease Response Arrangements (EADRA). Dairy Australia and Agriculture Victoria have developed a Biosecurity Plan Tool to assist producers develop dairy specific biosecurity plans.

  • Promoting responsible antimicrobial use

    The year-long Countdown MQ (Milk Quality) course upskills all dairy advisors (veterinarians, dairy company and other field services officers and milk machine technicians) in milk quality investigations and on-farm communication to change practices on farm, including promoting responsible antimicrobial use.

  • Dry Cow Consult Tool

    This tool assists farmers and their veterinarians avoid blanket herd treatment by adopting selective treatment of cows with antibiotic therapy through the dry period.

  • Cool Cows program

    Dairy Australia’s Cool Cows program contains practical information on how to reduce the impact of high temperatures on cow productivity with practical advice on providing cooler conditions.

  • DataGene

    DataGene has developed a new Australian Breeding Value for heat tolerance, which allows farmers to breed animals with improved tolerance to hot, humid conditions - a characteristic that is likely to become increasingly important in warming climate and can also have benefits for animal welfare.

  • Mastitis Focus Report

    This report enables dairy farmers, advisors and organisations to effectively keep track of udder health in the herd, assess key mastitis management areas and detect emerging problem increasingly important in warming climate and can also have benefits for animal welfare.

Case Study: Repro rights boosts skills for lifting herd reproduction

An initiative for upskilling dairy professionals to deliver higher quality reproduction services to farmers is helping to lift performance in Australia’s dairy herds.

  • Repro Right is an intensive 10-month professional development program. The program improves the ability of vets, agronomists, herd managers, and extension field staff to provide intensive problem-solving and whole-herd reproductive management services to dairy farmers.
  • The program uses a mixture of online learning, multi-day group sessions, assignments and practical tasks on important elements of reproductive management in Australian dairy systems.
  • Tasmanian vet and dairy farmer Dr Grant Rogers participated in the program and said Repro Right gave a complete approach to understanding how reproduction fitted into a farming system with a particular focus on how to use Dairy Data software to assess performance.

Case Study: New online tool helps farmers manage biosecurity risks

A new online tool that enables dairy farmers to build their skills and adapt their management Dairy Australia technical and innovation manager Dr John Penry said it is essential for all farms to have a biosecurity plan to manage disease risk.

“The biosecurity tool allows dairy farmers to manage their risks around 14 separate diseases such as salmonella and BVD.”

For each disease, dairy farmers can identify control measures under the seven categories of stock movements, herd health, farm inputs, visitors, effluent and waste, neighbours and dead animals.

Agriculture Victoria development specialist Dr Sarah Chaplin said the new online tool would help farmers understand how to manage their own biosecurity risks.

Focused control measures have a better cost-benefit ratio than blanket application of all possible control measures.


How do you think our industry is tracking on best care for animals?

Review industry progress against each commitment