Welfare of cattle: code of practice

The aim of the code is to help those responsible for cattle to look after them properly.


1 This code (which only applies in Scotland) covers all cattle. 'Cattle' refers to all bovine stock (such as cows and oxen), and includes buffalo and bison. A calf refers to any animal under six months old.

2 The code's recommendations apply to cattle under all husbandry systems. Section 1 of the code gives the recommendations that apply to all ages and types of cattle. Section 2 covers those recommendations that apply to specific categories of cattle (such as calves, breeding cattle and dairy). If these recommendations are followed, they will help to protect the stock's welfare. The code's recommendations are not a complete list and they are not meant to replace expert advice, such as from a veterinary surgeon.

3 The husbandry system that is used, and the number and stocking rate of cattle kept at any one time, should depend on:

  • the suitability of the farm environment
  • how many animals the farm can accommodate at one time
  • the competence of the stock-keeper
  • how long the stockmen have to carry out their duties

4 Organic cattle farming is conducted according to additional, legally enforced standards. However, nothing in those standards affects the legal responsibilities of organic farmers regarding positive animal welfare. Any matters which appear to conflict with organic standards should be discussed with your organic certifying body. In addition, you should seek expert advice, such as from a veterinary surgeon.

5 In general, the larger the size or the productivity of the herd, the more skill and care is needed to protect welfare. No changes should be made to husbandry, equipment or production until the possible effects on animal welfare have been considered.

6 The relevant animal welfare legislation applies to owners as well as to anyone looking after cattle on their behalf, wherever the cattle are located. A written contract can be useful in making sure that everyone involved is clear about their animal welfare responsibilities. However, the obligations imposed by law will still apply, whether or not a contract exists. Certain aspects of livestock husbandry can present hazards to the health and safety of the stock-keeper. Advice on such matters is available from the local Agricultural Inspector of the Health and Safety Executive.


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