Proposed updates to animal welfare standards are on the way. Anne Lee reports.

Farmers have until the end of June to make submissions on proposed new regulations and changes to the Code of Welfare for Dairy Cattle.

Some of the proposals could have significant impacts on farming practices such as once-a-day feeding of calves, the use of electrified backing gates and wintering. While many of the proposals are changes to minimum standards within the Code of Welfare, and are therefore not enforceable by law, they are considered to reflect good practice and do form the background on which regulations are drawn up.

As best practices and minimum standards, they’re also likely to be increasingly looked to by dairy companies or their customers and expected to be adhered to for auditing or supply agreement conditions. Several regulation changes relate to wintering including a proposal that farmers must provide animals a minimum of 10 square metres/animal of well-drained, “compressible” area to lie down. Fodder beet has attracted attention with the draft document stating the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) has concerns around fodder beet due to “its nutritional profile and associated impact on the health and welfare of dairy cows.”

The draft proposes a minimum standard that calls for fodder beet to make up no more than 60% of a dry cow’s diet.

That’s well below the proportion fed by many farmers on “ad lib” fodder beet diets.

Changes to the transport minimum standards also look set to form the basis of new regulations as part of efforts to reduce the chances that animals will go down (be recumbent) on arrival at slaughter premises. Federated Farmers dairy industry group chairperson Wayne Langford is also the group’s animal welfare spokesperson.

While the aims of many of the proposed changes are fair, he says there are aspects that reflect a classic pattern of the government in trying to get too far inside the farm gate.

He cites the proposals for calf rearing specifying an increase in volume of milk per day required to be fed to calves along with the requirement to feed them twice a day until they’re three weeks old.

“We haven’t seen widespread animal welfare issues with calves not being fed properly under the various systems farmers use now so it’s hard to know what’s behind some of these proposals.”

Specifying lactating cows being transported to slaughter or saleyards must be treated with minerals to avoid down cows in trucks is another example, he says.

Plenty of farmers never have those issues so making a blanket regulation creates unnecessary cost and additional time requirements. Regulating increased veterinary involvement is a concern too, given vets are under pressure with not enough vets in the country as it is.

“On top of that there’s the additional cost farmers will have to pay.

“We’re not saying having vets involved isn’t justified but putting it into regulation – that’s going too far.”

Wayne urged farmers to read the proposals and to feed their concerns back to Federated Farmers who will be making a submission.

DairyNZ will also make submissions on the proposals.

Code of animal welfare


No use of electrified backing gates and top gates. (To be prohibited by regulation.)

Body Condition Score (BCS) must not fall below 3.5 or go above 8. (Minimum standard.)

Persons in charge of dairy cattle must have a documented contingency plan in place to address any anticipated adverse events which can negatively affect the welfare of the animals. (Minimum standard.)


All cattle in intensive wintering situations have access to clean water in the gazing area at all times. (By regulation.)

All cattle in intensive wintering situations have access to a well-drained, “compressible area” of at least 10m2/animal for lying. (By regulation.)

Cows should be moved to an area suitable for calving at least 14-days prior to scan-dated calving date. (By regulation)

Cows must be provided with a compressible, well-drained surface and effective shelter at least 14 days prior to scan-dated calving to prevent calves being born into unsuitable conditions, including surface water or mud. (Minimum standard)


Where a change of feed is incorporated into the diet it must be introduced gradually and abrupt changes must be avoided. (Minimum standard.) Fodder beet does not make up more than 60% of the diet of dry cows and growing cattle and no more than 30% in lactating cows with remaining feed made up of supplementary feed and/or pasture. (Example indicator.)


All dairy cattle must be provided with shade or other means to minimise the risk of heat stress due to warm and/or humid conditions. (Minimum standard but regulation may be set pending feedback.)

All dairy cattle must be provided with shelter or other means to minimise the risk of cold stress due to cold and/or wet conditions (Minimum standard.)

Photosensitive animals must be provided with protection from exposure to direct sunlight. (Minimum standard.)


River stones must not be used as a surface cover or bedding in off-paddock facilities. (Minimum standard.)

If cows are in off-paddock facilities for more than 12 hours/day for more than three consecutive days they must be provided with a well-drained lying area with a compressible surface or bedding, maintained to avoid manure accumulation. (Minimum standard.)


Calves removed from their mothers must receive colostrum/colostrum substitute within two hours of being removed to ensure that any calves not fed by their mother receive colostrum within 24 hours of birth. (Minimum standard.)

For the first three weeks calves must be fed suitable quality liquid feed at not less than 20% of body weight divided into no less than two feeds per day. (Minimum standard.)

Calves cannot be fully weaned off milk before six weeks of age. (Minimum standard.)


Lactating cows must not be held off green feed for more than six hours prior to transport – 12 hours for dry cows. (Minimum standard.)

Water and roughage must be available in collection area at all times until the point of loading. (Minimum standard likely regulation.)

Dairy cows transported to saleyards or slaughter must receive mineral supplementation prior to transport to prevent metabolic complications – such as hypomagnesaemia and hypocalcaemia. (Minimum standard likely regulation.)

Lactating cows transported to saleyards or slaughter must be milked as close to transport as possible. (Minimum standard likely regulation. Example indicator says must be within two hours of transport.)