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Dairy cows

Dairy cows can experience a range of welfare problems. We're working in a variety of different ways to improve their welfare both on farm, and during transport and slaughter.

Cattle behaviour and needs

Understanding the natural behaviour of dairy cows can help explain their needs.

  • Cattle are very social animals and live in groups called herds. Social hierarchies play an important role in herds, with some cows being more dominant than others. Cows also have preferred social partners in their groups, who they keep close to and are more likely to groom.
  • Cattle are grazing animals and will feed on grasses and other plants that grow close to the ground. They tend to spend around a third to a half of their day grazing when kept in fields, eating more at dawn and dusk.
  • The vegetation that cattle eat can be difficult to digest, so they've evolved a specialised digestive system - which famously contains four chambers - to help them digest it.
  • Cows 'ruminate', which means they regurgitate, re-chew and then re-swallow partially digested food to further help digestion.
  • Cattle spend a large chunk of their day lying down - an important activity for cows, as it's when they do most ruminating and when they rest and sleep.

Find out more about dairy cows

If you'd like to learn more, have a read of our information sheet on the welfare of dairy cows. We've written about our views on individual hutches for calves and on grazing dairy cows, and you can also find out more about how dairy cows are farmed.

Find out more