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 care of cows is a key priority of the Australian dairy industry, and is one of the 4 core pillars of the Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework

Dairy Industry policy for the care of animals

Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) animal welfare policies set the minimum expected standard for the care of all dairy animals. These policies are developed by their Animal Health and Welfare Policy Advisory Group. This group, made up of representatives from each State Dairy Farmer Organisation, also helps prioritise focus areas for practice change and makes recommendations on policy to the peak body Australian Dairy Farmers National Council.

A full list of these policies can be found on the Australian Dairy Farmer’s website.

Some of the priorities for cow welfare include:

  • Reducing lameness
  • Caring for cattle during transport
  • Switch trimming, not tail docking
  • Managing downer cows
  • Reducing calving induction
  • Copy Link Ban on tail docking

    Ban on 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. The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle only allow tail docking of cattle under veterinary advice to treat a tail injury or disease.

    Tail docking in the dairy industry is largely based on habits, attitudes and tradition, rather than good science or real need. Farmers who have given away the practice discover that cows with full tails are just as easy to manage as those without. To minimise the problem of dirty tails, excess tail hair can simply be trimmed once or twice per year (switch trimming). Other strategies to manage cows without tail docking include calm, consistent milking practices, good dairy design, fly control and the use of tail clips.

    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. The majority of farmers have now adopted alternatives that enhance cow and operator comfort.

    The 2016 Dairy Australia Animal Husbandry Survey found that:

    • The vast majority of Australian dairy farmers do not dock the tails of any of their cows. Tail docking (routine or selective) is carried out on only 9% of dairy farms, down from 13% in 2014.
    • Tail docking is still more prevalent on farms in higher rainfall areas (Tasmania, Western Victoria and Gippsland).

    More information

    2016 Animal husbandry survey brochure (PDF, 3MB)

    Myths about tail docking (PDF, 636KB)

    Alternatives to tail docking (PDF, 698KB)

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

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

  • Copy Link 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 now legislated in all states and territories.

    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 stipulate that livestock must be handled, loaded, transported and unloaded in a manner that minimises risks to 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 is 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

  • Copy Link Euthanasia


    Euthanasia may be required for sick or injured dairy cattle, but there are ethical and legal obligations farmers should be aware of.

    Even when facing challenging conditions on-farm, farmers should still use methods of euthanasia that reduce pain and distress as much as possible.

    Anyone working with cattle should know how to perform euthanasia properly, to meet the high expectations of the community, work within the law, and most importantly, care for their animals.

    Latest policy changes

    In May 2019, the Australian Dairy Farmers National Council passed recommendations to enforce a revised industry statement on emergency euthanasia.

    How farmers can remain compliant

    1. Ensure access to a licensed firearm or captive bolt device for on-farm euthanasia
    2. Provide training to staff as required
    3. Only use blunt force trauma in emergencies, and if there is no other practical alternative, the calf is under 24 hours old, and in severe pain or distress

    Training courses

    Dairy farmers are actively encouraged to ensure they are able to perform euthanasia in line with best practice and provide training for their staff.

    Euthanase Livestock courses are routinely offered by every Regional Development Program, equipping farmers with the tools and knowledge they need to remain compliant with best practice and industry policies on-farm.

    To find out what is available in your region, contact your Regional Development Program.

  • Copy Link 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:

    • Reducing lameness
    • Caring for cattle during transport
    • Switch trimming, not tail docking
    • Managing downer cows
    • Reducing calving induction

  • Copy Link 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:



  • Copy Link Phasing out routine calving induction

    Phasing out routine calving induction

    The Australian dairy industry does not support routine calving induction and has committed to phase it out by 1 January 2022.

    Routine calving induction has been used on some farms to ensure that calves are born in line with most of the herd to maximise feed available to the cows, 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 euthanasia, 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, at or below the within herd limit set by the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) for this year.

    The phase out will include annual within-herd limits until 1 January 2022, with an assessment of the progress at the end of each season. These are:

    • 2019 – 8 per cent of a herd
    • 2020 – 6 per cent of a herd
    • 2021 – 5 per cent of a herd
    • 2022 – No cows to be induced without dispensation

    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 to help improve herd fertility – speak to your RDP to register your interest in the next InCharge Fertility workshop
    • Managing you calving pattern is key for phasing out induction – find more resources on our Managing calving patterns page
    • Repro Right adviser training is a course to develop fertility analysis skills in dairy vets and advisers – find out more including a list of advisers
    • Selecting for short gestation and high calving ease bulls in the Good Bulls Guide can help tighten calving periods – short gestation length ABV will be available from the April 2019 release
    • A policy on calving induction and veterinary guidelines from the Australian Veterinary Association, with their interest group Australian Cattle Veterinarians.

    Veterinary dispensation

    In the case of exceptional circumstances which result in herd requiring to be induced above industry targets, such as natural disasters or unavoidable animal health events, veterinarians may apply for dispensation on behalf of the farmer.

    Applications are reviewed by the Dispensation Panel, with representatives from Australian Dairy Farmers, Australian Cattle Veterinarians and Australian Dairy Products Federation and supported by Dairy Australia. These should be submitted two months before the proposed induction start date.

    Dispensation Application Form – for completion by veterinarians only

    More information

    Routine calving induction. New industry targets 2018-2019 - QandAs (PDF, 462KB)

    This FAQ answers questions including:

    • What are the revised routine calving induction targets for 2018 and 2019?
    • 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?

  • Copy Link Reducing lameness

    Reducing lameness

    Dairy Australia’s extension program for lameness – ‘Healthy Hooves’ – details strategies for preventing and managing lameness.
    All farm businesses should have a lameness plan to prevent and manage lameness on their 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 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 lameness 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, 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.


Our Farm, Our Plan

Our Farm, Our Plan is a new program designed to equip farmers to clarify their long term goals, identify the actions needed and to manage uncertainty and risk.

Hay and grain reports

The hay and grain report is commissioned by Dairy Australia to provide an independent and timely assessment of hay and grain markets in each dairying region. The report is updated 40 weeks per year.

More Initiatives