Cattle were first domesticated over 6,000 years ago and have been very important animals, supplying us with milk, meat, fuel, draught (pulling) power, leather and fertiliser.
Different breeds of cattle are reared for different purposes. Dairy cattle, which in the UK are mainly of the black and white Holstein breed, have been bred specifically for milk production and are probably our hardest working farm animals. In contrast, beef cattle breeds are bred mainly for meat production are much more muscular than dairy cattle.
Pictures of contented ‘free range’ cows happily chewing the cud in the sunshine are often shown when dairy products are advertised, and many people assume that all beef cattle are also kept outside in fields. Because of this, many people do not give much thought to cattle welfare when they are buying dairy products and beef. However, we have some serious concerns about cattle welfare and have been working in a number of ways to try to improve the lives of both dairy and beef cattle.