8 March 1996

RSPCA to target quality with assurance scheme

By Shelley Wright

THE RSPCA is offering a quality assurance scheme for dairy herds under its Freedom Foods initiative.

The first dairy unit to be accredited under the scheme, which sets health and welfare standards from birth to slaughter, is Snugbury Farm, Nantwich, Cheshire.

Chris Sadler, who with wife Cheryl, runs a herd of 98 Danish Jersey cows and makes icecream, said he was extremely proud to be able to use the Freedom Food logo on his icecream packaging. "Everyone has heard of the RSPCA and for us the logo is going to be an excellent marketing aid."

The couple did not have to make any changes to their existing management programme to gain accreditation, and they are delighted with the RSPCAs support and encouragement.

The scheme sets comprehensive criteria for cattle management based on the "five freedoms." As well as husbandry standards, the RSPCA lists requirements on animal transport and slaughter.

Targets for mastitis control include a somatic cell count below 250,000 cells/ml and a TBC of less than 10,000 bacteria/ml. A mastitis rate of less than 25 clinical cases per 100 cows and a recurrence rate of less than 10% are also demanded.

Calves must not be bought-in from markets, and cast cows must be sent directly to the abattoir and not sold through livestock marts. But producers can still sell their calves through markets because the RSPCA recognises that there are not enough alternative outlets at the moment.

Mike Sharpe, general manager of Freedom Food, said many enquiries had been received and discussions were progressing with producers, milk buyers and processors.

The public protests over live calf exports had forced producers to accept that such schemes were essential if they were to reassure consumers about animal welfare. &#42


FREEDOM FOODS


&#8226 Based on the 5 freedoms included in MAFF welfare codes.

&#8226 Livestock markets must not be used, either to buy-in calves or to sell cull cows.

&#8226 Loose housing must have a non-slatted area where all cows can lie down at the same time.

&#8226 Veterinary health plans must be established and updated regularly.

&#8226 Mastitis targets: SCC less than 250,000 and TBC less than 10,000. Fewer than 25 clinical cases per 100 cows and a recurrence rate of less than 10%.

&#8226 Footbaths must be provided.