Dairy Australia - Dairy information for Australian Dairy Farmers and the industry

Primary content

Learn how to care for your cows, including dealing with lameness and down cows, and caring for cattle during transport.

Managing cow welfare

The welfare of cows is important to the Australian dairy industry, as they must be in peak condition to:

  • deliver safe, quality dairy products, and
  • ensure the future sustainability of the industry.

Some of the priorities for cow welfare:

  • Caring for cattle during transport

    Caring for cattle during transport

    Animals in the dairy industry need to be transported for a whole range of reasons including between properties, to sale-yards and to meat processors.

    To ensure they are well looked after the dairy industry in conjunction with industry bodies, animal welfare scientists, governments and welfare groups has developed national standards and guidelines for transporting livestock - The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines - Land Transport of Livestock (known as the Land Transport Standards). These standards are based on existing Codes of Practice.

    New national standards were introduced across Australia in January 2013, providing consistency of practice across the country.

    It is a requirement under the Land Transport Standards for livestock owners, operators and receivers to comply with the new laws which specify requirements for ˜fit to load™, vehicles and facilities, time off water, journey time and more. The standards ensure that livestock must be handled, loaded, transported and unloaded in a manner that minimises risks to livestock welfare. Compliance with the requirements will result in good animal welfare outcomes and increased consumer confidence.

    • Everybody who has responsibility for animals being transported needs to ensure their welfare
    • All farmers must be aware of, and adhere to, their requirements under the new Land Transport Standards
    • The Land Transport Standards are for all livestock being transported in Australia including dairy cows and bobby calves
    • Failure to comply with the Land Transport Standards will be an offence and may lead to an infringement or court penalty
    • Information is available (see below) to assist farmers in understanding their requirements for the responsible care and management of their livestock during transport.

    More information

  • Managing cow welfare

    Managing cow welfare

    The welfare of cows is important to the Australian dairy industry, as they must be in peak condition to:

    - Deliver safe, quality dairy products, and  
    - Ensure the future sustainability of the industry.

    Some of the priorities for cow welfare:

  • Managing down cows

    Managing down cows

    The term 'down cow' generally applies to any late pregnant or recently calved cow that is recumbent (lying down on chest or side) and unable to rise. A downer cow is a veterinary emergency and you should seek urgent veterinary advice.

    Without good nursing care, secondary damage will occur if the cow is not got back on her feet quickly, regardless of the initial cause of the recumbency. In some cases, when treatment is not effective, humane destruction is warranted.

    More information

    • Down Cow decision tree (PDF, 110KB)
      This handy wall chart helps you during the first 12 hours and the following daily cycle of nursing.


    These short videos can assist you to manage the different aspects of down cow welfare:




    Hip clamp

    Pelvic lifter


    Lifting the down cow

    The nursing area:



  • Reducing calving induction

    Reducing calving induction

    The Australian dairy industry does not support routine calving induction and is working to phase it out through improved genetics, herd management practices, tools and technologies.

    Some farmers induce calving of cows to ensure that calves are born in line with most of the herd, or to reduce potential welfare implications if it is thought that the size of the calf at full term may cause problems for the cow.

    Induction of calving may result in:

    • A weak calf that needs special care and attention, or in some cases immediate humane destruction, and/or
    • An increased risk of mastitis, metabolic diseases, retained membranes and infection for the cow.

    Use of induction can be reduced through:

    • Improving herd fertility to ensure mating at the best time - reducing the need to use calving induction, or
    • moving from seasonal calving patterns to split or year round systems.

    If calving induction is practiced it should be performed under veterinary supervision.

    Working on welfare

    Dairy Australia has been working with research, development and extension programs and with farmers to reduce the need to use induction on farm.

    Industry programs include:

    • The InCalf extension program, developed in 2006 to help improve herd fertility.
    • Encouragement of vets who specialise in dairy cattle to participate in InCalf advisor training courses.
    • Development of industry agreed guidelines to ensure cows are managed appropriately for induction.
    • Investigation of strategies to improve reproductive management in seasonal calving herds.

    More information

    Routine calving induction. Dairy industry revised limit of 12% for 2017 - QandAs (PDF, 309KB)

    This FAQ answers questions including:

    • What is the revised routine calving induction target for 2017?
    • What progress has been made in reducing routine calving induction?
    • Why is the Australian dairy industry phasing out routine calving induction?
    • Why has no timeframe for the phase-out been set? 

  • Reducing lameness

    Reducing lameness

    The prevention, early detection and treatment of lameness improves animal welfare by minimising suffering and distress in cows. The Australian dairy industry is working to minimise the animal welfare impacts of lameness through encouraging the adoption of practices for the prevention, early detection and effective treatment of lameness on farm.


    Dairy Australia has been working with farmers to establish lameness strategies on farm in order to minimise lameness.

    Recent survey results report that almost all dairy farmers have implemented a lameness strategy on farm to prevent, identify and treat cases of lameness.

    When lameness does occur, dairy farmers follow industry recommendations and inspect the affected hoof in an attempt to identify and address the cause of the problem.

    Working on welfare

    To continue to provide farmers with the latest information and recommended practices to minimise lameness the dairy industry has:

    • Worked with local veterinarians to deliver lameness workshops and resources for farmers on the prevention, identification and treatment of lamenes.
    • Published guidelines through the industry CowTime program on the design of laneways, yards and the milk shed to prevent lameness.

    More information

    Managing in Wet Conditions - Lameness (PDF, 1.4MB)

    Extremely wet conditions are associated with higher rates of lameness in dairy cows. Know the common types of lamesness and read about management strategies to help deal with the problem.

    Building blocks for good laneways (PDF, 617KB)

    Now is a great time to review your annual maintenance plan which might include some plans for laneway construction or renovation or repair work around the farm. This document will help you with some practical tips. 

    Equipment for treating lameness (PDF, 599KB)

    The best advice is to purchase the best equipment you can afford rather than to select equipment on price alone. Well made equipment will last longer. The same goes for tools. Buy the best available and look after them as if they were your tools-of-trade; which they are. Clean and oil metal parts before storing them away from damp. Sharpen hoof knives. Read about restraining the cow, safety and essential and optional tools.

  • Switch trimming not tail docking

    Switch trimming not tail docking

    Tail docking of dairy cows is a painful procedure that may also increase irritation from biting flies and cause long-term nerve damage. Tail docking of cattle is already banned in some Australian states, except when undertaken by a veterinarian.

    Industry goal: No farmers practice tail docking except for therapeutic reasons

    The Australian dairy industry has for many years promoted alternatives to tail docking and supported legislation to ban tail docking under proposed new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines: Cattle (to be finalised). Tail docking should only be done under veterinary advice or to treat injury or disease.


    The majority of farmers have now adopted alternatives such as switch trimming (the removal of hair at the end of the tail), effective dairy design, fly control programs and milking practices that enhance cow and operator comfort.

    More information

    Dairy welfare, we care - Animal Husbandry Survey (2014) (PDF, 957KB)

    This survey found that:

    • More than 85% of Australian dairy farmers do not dock the tails of any of their cows. Tail docking (including routine or selective) is carried out on only 13% of dairy farms.
    • Tail docking is still more prevalent on farms in higher rainfall areas (Tasmania- 20%, Western Victoria - 13% and Gippsland - 21%).
    • Of those who dock tails, 15% indicated that they are unlikely to still be dairying in three years.
    • Almost half (49%) of those who dock tails say they are aware the incoming Animal Welfare Standards will ban the practice of tail docking.

    Myths about tail docking (PDF, 636KB)

    Tail docking in the dairy industry is largely based on habits, attitudes and tradition, rather than good science or real need. Increasingly, farmers are giving away the practice and discovering that cows with tails are just as easy to manage as those without. However tail docking can cause short-term (and possibly long-term) pain. It also leads to a compromise of cattle welfare through increased levels of irritation from biting flies and increased efforts by cows to remove these flies. This fact sheet discusses the main myths around the practice.  

    Alternatives to tail docking (PDF, 698KB)

    This fact sheet looks at several alternatives to tail docking, including switch trimming, fly control, and tail clips. 

    How to trim a cow's tail (PDF, 988KB)

    Trimming tails is usually required twice a year. Dirty tails are more problematic during the wet times of the year, so it makes sense to trim the cows'™ tails once before the onset of the wettest season. Just before calving (when freeze brands are clipped) is also another good time to schedule trimming. This fact sheet shows you the simple steps to trim the tail using clippers.

    For more information, contact enquiries@dairyaustralia.com.au or call (03) 96943777.

Major Initiatives

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Dairy Australia has established a network of Focus Farms to support farmer decision making.


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