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Dairy cattle

We thank our member society, the BC SPCA for allowing us to include this information and their factsheets on our website.

Over one million dairy cattle are raised on farms in Canada under a variety of conditions.

B.C.‘s dairy cattle have freedom of movement in concrete pens and sleep in bed stalls usually padded with sand, sawdust, or a rubber mat. Unfortunately, concrete floors and bed stalls can cause painful sores on cows’ legs and feet and on most farms, cattle are rarely given access to pasture. As a result, over 25% of high-producing dairy cows in B.C. are clinically lame – on some farms this figure exceeds 50%.

Painful procedures also cause concern for the welfare of dairy cattle. All heifers (female dairy calves) are dehorned at a young age in order to prevent injury to each other or to people later in life. Using a procedure called “disbudding”, the small emerging horn bud is usually prevented from growing by burning the tissue with a hot iron or a caustic chemical paste.

Some dairy farmers also amputate their tails at a young age for worker comfort and other reasons. It was thought that by removing the tail, which can become covered in manure, risk of udder infections would decrease, but research at the University of British Columbia recently disproved this.

In 2008 and 2009, the BC SPCA worked with farmers, scientists, veterinarians and government agencies to design Canada’s new Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, which address many of these issues. Click here to read more about what these new Codes require.

To learn more about how dairy cattle are raised in Canada, read BC SPCA’s detailed factsheets:

Dairy Production

Dairy Welfare

Dairy Lameness

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