Opinion Former Article

RSPCA worried milk price drop will affect dairy cow welfare

Bottles of milk cost less than water

The RSPCA is urging shoppers to avoid cut-price milk deals in the supermarket as they could have a knock-on effect on dairy cow welfare.

Although some supermarkets have contracts with farmers where the price of milk is linked to the cost of production most milk producers do not have these contracts have been told to expect to be paid about 5 pence less per litre of milk from August this year.

The RSPCA is worried that this drop in price to farmers will badly impact on the welfare of dairy cows and is urging on shoppers to avoid tempting milk deals.

John Avizienius (pictured), deputy head of the RSPCA’s farm animal science team and former dairy herdsman, said: “Although a drop in cost of milk and cheap deals might seem like great news for shoppers we are concerned that ultimately it will be cows which will pay the price.

“Farmers cannot produce milk at a loss, it’s simply not sustainable, they cannot survive like that. We are in the ridiculous situation where milk is cheaper than bottled water at some supermarkets - that simply cannot be right.

RSPCA fear cows will pay the price for cheap milk

“We know people care about the welfare of farm animals and would urge them to think of dairy cows when they are doing their weekly shop.

“I believe shoppers would be even happy to pay an extra one or two pence on a pint of milk if it safeguarded dairy cow welfare.”

The RSPCA has been working on a number of initiatives and projects with the Government and the dairy industry to improve welfare in the UK.

John Avizienius added: “The UK dairy industry is making efforts to tackle really important issues such as mastitis and lameness in the national herd through the national dairy cow welfare strategy which the RSPCA is helping to implement.

“I am concerned that this drop in the market price of milk could put the brakes on these and other planned welfare improvements.

“For example if a farmer was due to upgrade their cubicles or straw yards to make them more comfortable for their cows they may not have the money to invest in that now.”



Notes to editors:

— For interview requests for photographs please contact Catherine Peerless in the RSPCA press office on 0300 1230005.

— The RSPCA is working on a variety of initiatives to improve dairy cow welfare in the UK on a practical level:

o The RSPCA has written comprehensive standards for farming dairy cows which go well above and beyond the legal minimum and are solely focused on welfare

o The RSPCA along with The University of Bristol and Soil Association founded The AssureWel scheme which has developed a quick and simple way of measuring the welfare of farm animals which is due to be rolled-out on Freedom Food dairy farms in August this year.

o We are members of the genetics advisory forum looking at improving welfare through the introduction of breeding concentrating on health and welfare rather than production

o We are members of the Cattle Health and Welfare Group which is responsible for administering the National Dairy Cattle Health and Welfare Strategy and its ten priorities

o We are members of the Dairy 20/20 industry group established to formulate models for a sustainable dairy industry for the future

o We are members of the Government Green Futures dairy sub group looking at environmental sustainability and opportunities for dairy product in the future


RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288 Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: press@rspca.org.uk Website: www.rspca.org.uk

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