National farm assurance scheme demonstrates welfare outcome improvements for sustainable intensification of dairy production

Mullan, Siobhan, Wiltshire, Philippa, Cross, Kate, Main, David C J, Still, Kate, Crawley, Madeleine and Dowsey, Andrew W (2021) National farm assurance scheme demonstrates welfare outcome improvements for sustainable intensification of dairy production. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. ISSN 1747-762X

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Animal welfare is a key pillar of sustainability in livestock farming but can be challenging to deliver improvements in when productivity is high. In October 2013 the Red Tractor UK national dairy assurance scheme introduced welfare outcome monitoring on its 11,500 farms covering 95% of UK milk produced. Here we show that 98 farm assurance assessors achieved high levels of agreement with a gold standard and report data they collected for three years from 248,689 cows, typically 10 cows per farm, during 19,899 audits. Between 2013/14 and 2015/16, the estimated national prevalence fell significantly for lameness (from 10.0% to 7.9%), dirtiness (from 12.4% to 9.2%), ‘hairloss, lesions and swellings’ (from 9.3% to 6.5%), and fat cows (from 2.4% to 1.9%). This occurred at a time when milk yield per cow increased. We have demonstrated an effective implementation strategy suitable for uptake internationally to align with societal sustainability goals.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: “This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability on 11/8/2021, available online: It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.”
Keywords: sustainable intensification, animal welfare, farm assurance, dairy cows, welfare outcomes
Divisions: Agriculture, Food and Environment
Depositing User: Professor David Main
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2021 09:11
Last Modified: 13 Aug 2021 10:05

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