Dairy Cows

Care4Dairy has developed best practice guides on four key life stages in dairy production: dairy calves, heifers, lactating cows and end- of- career cows. Each best practice guide is a compilation of fact sheets that summarise the latest scientific and technical evidence to support animal welfare. They adopt a user-friendly solutions-based approach and have been developed in partnership with the dairy sector.


Each fact sheet describes good and best practice and is structured according to four key pillars of animal welfare: feeding, housing, health and behaviour. Some topics may be relevant to more than one life stage and this is indicated at the start of each factsheet.

The life stages are characterised as follows:

  • calves are defined as bovines from birth to 6 months of age 
  • heifers are usually 7-24 months of age 
  • adult cows are 2 years plus 
  • end of career- animals can be any age between 2 years old until the end of their productive life either due to natural culling, illness or injury 

Information on the care of bulls has been indicated in the relevant text, although this life stage group was not within the direct scope of Care4Dairy.

In addition to the guides, several EU member states have shared examples of “success stories” where best practice solutions have been used in training, on farm assessments and communication tools. Further resources are provided to support the best practice guides.


The best practice guide for dairy cows consists of ten factsheets.

Best Practice Guide
Cow Best Practice Guide

Best practice farms optimise the performance of their cows by providing tailored nutrition, in a clean, safe and enriched environment which supports optimal health, welfare and human- animal interactions. 

Best practice farms optimise the quality and performance of their cows by providing a clean, safe and enriched environment which supports optimal health, welfare and human- animal interactions.  

Best practice farms optimise the health and welfare of their cows through veterinary consultation, planning and documenting their prophylactic and responsive health and medical management protocols. 

Best practice farms have confident cows who express a range of positive natural behaviours by providing an enriched indoor & outdoor environment with kind, animal- centred human- animal interactions.  



Success Stories

There are a number of initiatives currently being implemented in the EU and beyond, to encourage adoption of welfare friendly practices on dairy farms. In this section we highlight examples where groups have successfully collaborated to share resources on animal welfare topics with farmers. Farmers have been involved in the design of many of these tools.

These resources combine a range of formats, all designed to encourage adoption of animal welfare friendly practices on farm:

  • Exchanging information and practices between peers, including short videos from farmer to farmer
  • Initiatives to support transition to best practice
  • Infographics which summarise good and best practice, in a concise and easy to read format
Good Practice for Dairy Cows

An infographic on dairy cow welfare was developed in Ireland in partnership with key stakeholders.

It can be downloaded from: https://www.teagasc.ie/media/website/rural-economy/M11042-SWAB-Cow.pdf

Good Practice for Dairy Cow Welfare

Good Practice for Dairy Cow Welfare


To further support the implementation of the Care4Dairy best practice guides, a number of additional resources have either been developed or existing relevant resources identified.

Hints and tips on managing calving

Best practice farms achieve healthy, natural calving by selecting sires for calving ease, careful management of pregnant animals, monitoring at calving to enable timely and effective intervention when needed and permitting dam-neonate interactions.