Cattle breeders warned of teat sealing breach penalties

Cattle breeders have been reminded that subsidy penalties and assurance scheme expulsion are among the sanctions for anybody caught sealing cows’ teats with glue at shows.

Sealing cows’ teats to stop milk flow and enhance the udder is a breach of animal welfare legislation, Red Tractor and Defra have stated.

Defra confirmed to Farmers Weekly the controversial practice is outlawed by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

See also: Buyer’s guide: Teat disinfection technology

Being caught teat sealing could see Red Tractor farmers kicked out of the scheme, meaning milk cannot be marketed as Farm Assured.

Important breeder platform

In a statement to Farmers Weekly, Holstein UK stressed the importance of cattle showing as a platform for breeders to showcase animals but reiterated health and welfare was a priority at all times.

Holstein UK CEO Sue Cope said: “It is worth noting that unlike many of our European counterparts, here in the UK, sealing of teats is prohibited and has been for a considerable amount of years.

“UK Dairy Day, which hosts a number of national breed shows – including the National Holstein Show – has an agreement with a national vet practice to supply qualified veterinarians as welfare officers for the show.

“These welfare officers have ultimate control of the wellbeing of the animals in attendance and ensure all animals entering the show ring are fit and well, as well as ensuring the show rules are followed.”

She added the importance of understanding assurance scheme and milk buyer agreements were often highlighted by Holstein UK to members and all health testing, traceability, record-keeping and showing requirements.

What could the penalty be?

  • A business claiming BPS (Basic Payment Scheme) would typically see a 3% reduction in payments for a single non-intentional breach of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs).
  • Intentional infringements to SMRs normally equate to a 20% reduction.
  • Intentional cases can see 15-100% payment reductions, depending on factors such as extent, severity and reoccurrence. In some extreme cases, money can be withheld the following year.

What do the rules say?

  • The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence either to cause any captive animal unnecessary suffering or fail to provide the welfare needs of the animal. This includes teat sealing which causes unnecessary suffering.
  • Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 requires staff to have the appropriate ability, knowledge and professional competence to care for the animal, and sets out strict limitations on the administration of substances to animals.
  • Agriculture show organisers are responsible for ensuring teat sealing is not practised at their shows and are required to report suspected breaches of the welfare rules to the Animal and Plant Health Agency so cases can be investigated, and the appropriate action can be taken.
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