Farmed animals

Over the past two decades we’ve raised the standard of care for farmed animals by encouraging farmers to make the necessary improvements to become certified.

Dairy cattle

SPCA Certified dairy cattle are raised extensively in outdoor pasture systems and provided with good amounts of shade and shelter to protect them from the elements. All cows and calves have opportunities to scratch and groom themselves on trees and other structures that are available in paddocks.

What do dairy cattle want?

  • To be able to rest (and ruminate) comfortably under shade and shelter

  • To be looked after kindly and compassionately

  • To form strong long term bonds with other cow friends

  • To be able to rub against trees and groom properly

What SPCA Certified means for dairy cattle

SPCA Certified requirement Why? Code of Welfare Minimum Standard
Access to shade/shelter in all paddocks at all times. Ensures animals can manage their thermal requirements wherever they are on the farm. Provided with means to minimise the effects of adverse weather.
No electrified barbed wire fencing. Electrified barbed wire fencing is extremely aversive to dairy cattle, so this improves their welfare by reducing stress/pain. No specific mention.
Use of electric prodders not allowed, unless there is a definite and unavoidable risk to human/animal life. Allows for exceptional use, as per RBP in the Code of Welfare. Electric prodders are extremely aversive to dairy cattle. Allowed on cattle weighing over 150 kg.
No ear notching, hot branding, freeze branding or face branding. Avoids unneccesary and painful interventions from being done. Freeze branding allowed.
Calves must not be weaned off milk before twelve weeks of age or until they have achieved 2.5 times their birth weight. Ensure that artificially reared calves have the best possible start in life. A calf must be given suitable liquid feed until the rumen has developed sufficiently to utilise solids as a sole feed source.
Trace element supplementation programme in place. Ensure that dairy cattle remain healthy and do not suffer from digestive/health problems. No specific mention.
Body Condition Score (BCS) kept between 4 - 6. Ensure that dairy cattle are healthy and in good condition at all times, so they are better able to cope with weather extremes. Take urgent remedial action if Body Condition Score (BCS) falls below 3.
Troughs and drinkers kept clean. Ensure that dairy cattle have access to good quality water at all times. Access to water not harmful to health.
Water testing. Ensure that dairy cattle have access to good quality water at all times. No specific mention.
Warm colostrum given at a minimum of 10 % bodyweight as soon as possible after birth, and ideally within the first four to six hours of life. Ensure that artificially reared calves have the best possible start in life. NB: We require calves to be naturally reared wherever possible, so colostrum access is not an issue. Newborn calves must receive sufficient colostrum or good quality commercial colostrum substitute.
Calves must have access to fibrous feed from birth. Helps to enhance rumen development and contribute to satisfying the calf's nutritional requirements. Recommended only from first week of life.
Maximum 8 hour transport time. Minimises stress and fear during a very stressful process. Maximum duration of transport for young calves is no more than 12 hours.
Animal health plan in place. Ensures that there is proper oversight of the animal's health status and that problems are addressed proactively, to reduce pain and suffering. Recommended only.
Breeding programmes to improve welfare outcomes. Ensures good animal welfare outcomes, i.e. a better life for the animals from the start. No specific mention.
Cows must not be walked more than 3 km daily to or from the milking shed and water troughs provided along the way. Impacts on eating and resting time available, and can contribute to heat stress. No specific mention.
No use of the Blockey test or those using restrained heifers. Stops the use of aversive procedures, which are stressful and potentially painful for dairy cattle. No specific mention.
Calving induction in exceptional circumstances only. Allows for animals to be helped where needed, without causing them pain/distress by making it routine. All induction must be conducted under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.
Pre and post operative pain relief regardless of age when doing surgical procedures. Minimises pain and stress, resulting in better welfare outcomes. Required for some but not all procedures.
Disbudding using thermal cautery, sedation and pre- and post-operative pain relief must be used. Minimises pain and stress, resulting in better welfare outcomes. Pain relief required. Method not specified.
Dehorning performed only in exceptional circumstances and done by a veterinarian with appropriate pain relief. Minimises pain and stress, resulting in better welfare outcomes. Pain relief required. No veterinary involvement needed.
Pre- and post-pain relief for castration must be used regardless of calf age. Minimises pain and stress, resulting in better welfare outcomes. When permitted, castration without pain relief must be performed when the animal is as young as possible. Recommended only - pain relief
Regular inspections done in a careful and respectful manner. Ensures that stress and fear in animals is minimised. Also promotes positive human/animal interactions, which is good for welfare. Dairy cattle must be handled in such a way as to minimise the risk of pain, injury or distress to the animals.
Six hourly inspections for dairy cows within four days of expected calving date. Ensures problems are identified early, which minimises pain and suffering. Dairy cows close to calving must be inspected at least twice every 24 hours
Milk from animals receiving medical treatment, especially anibiotics, must not be fed to calves Is unfit for sale due to poor quality or presence of antibiotic residues and therefore should not be fed to any calf. No specific mention.
Environmental enrichment, e.g. trees/scratching posts, in all pastures. Promotes the expression of positive behaviours. No specific mention.

Together, we can raise the bar of welfare for farmed animals

Every year over 13,000,000 farmed animals in NZ benefit from a higher standard of care. Sounds like a lot, but that’s just 21% of all the country’s farmed animals*. With your help, we can improve the welfare of many more farmed animals in NZ. *Stats NZ 2019