Welfare of cattle: code of practice

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

Feed, water and other substances

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388) Schedule 1, paragraphs 22-27, states that:

  • animals must be fed a wholesome diet which is appropriate to their age and species and which is fed to them in sufficient quantity to maintain them in good health, to satisfy their nutritional needs and to promote a positive state of well-being
  • animals must not be provided with food or liquid in a manner, nor must such food or liquid contain any substance, which may cause them unnecessary suffering or injury
  • all animals must have access to feed at intervals appropriate to their physiological needs (and, in any case, at least once a day), except where a veterinary surgeon acting in the exercise of that profession otherwise directs
  • all animals must either have access to a suitable water supply and be provided with an adequate supply of fresh drinking water each day or be able to satisfy their fluid intake needs by other means
  • feeding and watering equipment must be designed, constructed, placed and maintained so that contamination of food and water and the harmful effects of competition between animals are minimised
  • no other substance, with the exception of those given for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes or for the purpose of zootechnical treatment may be administered to animals unless it has been demonstrated by scientific studies of animal welfare or established experience that the effect of that substance is not detrimental to the health or welfare of the animals.

51 All cattle need a balanced daily diet to maintain full health and energy. You should monitor how much forage is available and when there is no longer enough for the animals' needs, you should supplement it with other suitable feeds. You should regularly check the weight and type of supplementary feeds offered, to make sure they are well balanced.

You should plan any changes in the diet and introduce them gradually.

52 Sufficient roughage must be available in all diets to reduce the risk of inducing bloat or laminitis. In intensive barley beef systems, long roughage, such as straw, should be made available ad lib. Where total mixed rations are used, you should seek specialist advice.

53 Animals that have been isolated for treatment must have plenty of water available. Unless a veterinary surgeon tells you otherwise, you must give the animal its normal feed.

54 There should be enough water available for at least 10% of housed cattle to drink at any one time. Water troughs - especially those in loose housing or cubicle units - should be designed and placed where:

  • they are protected from fouling
  • there is a low risk of the water freezing in cold weather
  • where there is sufficient space and easy access for all stock and dead-ends are avoided

You should keep water troughs or bowls thoroughly clean and check them at least once a day to make sure they are not blocked or damaged, and the water is flowing freely. Checking for blockages is equally important where drinking nipples are used. Provision must be made for providing emergency supplies of water.

55 For grazing cattle, you need the appropriate number of water troughs (large enough and of the right design) or some other source of drinkable water (such as a bowser, or water tanker) that the animals can readily use wherever they are grazing. These areas should allow easy access, be smooth underfoot and not prone to waterlogging.


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