Dairy cows - key welfare issues

We're concerned about the welfare of dairy cows across all farming systems.


Lameness is widely regarded as one of the most pressing welfare issues affecting dairy cows. The term describes an animal having impaired (poor) walking ability ¿ for example, as the result of a problem with their feet or legs.

Lameness is a key welfare concern because it's painful and it affects a large number of animals. Although levels can vary from farm to farm, research suggests that, on average, around a quarter to one third of cows on UK dairy farms are lame.


Mastitis is a disease in which the cow's udder becomes inflamed, usually as a result of a bacterial infection. It's one of the most common health problems affecting dairy cows.

Research suggests that, on average, over the course of a year, there will be around 40 - 60 cases of mastitis for every 100 cows in a herd.

Dairy Cows

Cow comfort

The quality of the environment in which dairy cows are kept can have a big impact on their welfare.

Lying comfort is very important to dairy cows. Long lying times are needed to maintain good cow health. This means that dairy cows need to have comfortable lying areas, to make sure they spend enough time lying down.

Transition cows and heifers

Dairy cows and heifers are at an increased risk of a range of health problems during the 'transition' period ¿ the weeks before and after calving. This is because of changes to their immune system and energy status during this time.

Highly specialised management is vital during this transition period to ensure the cows' welfare during this physiologically demanding time. During this period there's a particular focus on minimising stress, maximising cow comfort, and good management of cow nutrition.

Find out what we are doing to improve dairy cow welfare.