15 January 1999

Cow comfort is an investment well worthwhile

By Allan Wright

IMPROVING cow comfort is the best possible investment that can be made by a dairy farmer.

"It is the best money I have ever spent on cows," Ayrshire Cattle Society president Murray Stevenson told the Semex dairy conference in Glasgow on Monday, referring to pasture mats and the De Boer cubicle system he installed five years ago on his Ayrshire farm.

"We were culling too many good cows because of damaged hocks and sole ulcers. Our cows can now realise their full potential," he said.

"Scientists and geneticists have contributed enormously to modern milk yields. But there remain farms where management systems are not up to the standard required to keep cows healthy, stress-free, and consumer-friendly."

The general public, he claimed, were much more aware and concerned about animal welfare than most farmers realised.

"To sell our produce to an inc-reasingly sceptical public, we need to improve our image. Our future will be consumer driven and we must give more consideration to their needs and requirements," he said.

"Every producer should be meeting farm assurance and traceability requirements. We are no different from any other food producing factory and we should be accountable.

"Too often I see farms that do not meet the required standards. We do ourselves no favours by keeping our farm steadings in such a manner because more and more townspeople are watching how we produce our food. Few consumers would support or buy from a supermarket with poor hygiene and cleanliness standards: We should not be surprised if consumers feel the same about our farm operations," he said. &#42

COWWELFARE

&#8226 Public awareness rising.

&#8226 Cow comfort good investment.

&#8226 Standards must be met.

The future for milk is consumer driven, and more consideration must be given to their needs and requirements, conference delegates were told.