Dairy Quality Assurance Animal Health and Well-Being

The Issue

Consumers have targeted marketing organizations such a chain restaurants and grocery stores with questions on the “humaneness” of production practices utilized in food animals. The California dairy industry has campaigned their products to the consumer with sayings such as “Happy cows come from California.” With the evolution of these ads -- along with consumer queries -- animal protection organizations have responded by filing national and state law suits, which have yet to be successful in court but which have actively used the media to raise consumers’ concerns for the well-being of dairy animals. This has paralleled the on-going development of an animal welfare module which will be included in the voluntary California Dairy Quality Assurance Program.

What Has ANR Done?

Workgroup participants in the animal welfare module have performed an exhaustive review of many different issues -- concerns of both producers and consumers. One collaborative effort was the review of scientific literature associated with the increasing practice of tail docking on California dairies. Findings clearly determined that there are no positive benefits to the animal, while fly predation was a problem in animals with docked tails. This scientifically based recommendation was contrary to a proposal by a nationally approved animal welfare module that was being promoted in California. This review was published in a prominent peer-reviewed veterinary journal, and the article received many letters to the editor. These findings, with an emphasis to discontinue the practice, have been quoted in many articles in lay journals for producer audiences. This issue may become elevated to a regulated practice with the probability of state legislation being introduced in the coming session.

The Payoff

Identification of scientifically based production practices

This program has been extremely well received by producers on environmental issues and will be a viable mechanism to educate producers on production practices that are scientifically based and beneficial to the welfare of the dairy animal. This module will provide the consumer marketing base with assurance in proper handling techniques and facility design. The acceptance of the module as best management practice will give California an edge in marketing its dairy products.


Supporting Unit: UC Davis Department of Animal Science

Carolyn Stull, Extension Specialist
Veterinary Medicine Extension, UC Davis
(530) 752-0855; clstull@ucdavis.edu

Deanne Meyer, Livestock Waste Specialist
Department of Animal Science, UC Davis
(530) 752-9391; dmeyer@ucdavis.edu