Welfare of cattle: code of practice

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



The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388) Schedule 1, paragraphs 11 and 12, state that:

  • materials used for the construction of accommodation, and, in particular, for the construction of pens, cages, stalls and equipment with which the animals may come into contact, must not be harmful to them and must be capable of being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected
  • accommodation and fittings for securing animals shall be constructed and maintained so that there are no sharp edges or protrusions likely to cause injury to them

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. No. 388) Schedule 1, paragraph 4, provides that:

  • where any cattle are kept in a building they must be kept on, or have access at all times to, a lying area which is well-maintained with dry bedding or litter or a well-drained area for resting

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. No. 388) Schedule 1, paragraph 9 states that:

  • the freedom of movement of animals, having regard to their species and in accordance with established experience and scientific knowledge, must not be restricted in such a way as to cause them unnecessary suffering or injury

Schedule 1, paragraph 10 states that, where animals are continuously or regularly tethered or confined:

  • they must be given the space appropriate to their physiological and ethological needs in accordance with established experience and scientific knowledge

56 The more you limit the space that cattle have in the housing system you provide, the less choice the animal has to avoid unfavourable conditions. Housed cattle need constant care and attention from staff who are well trained in the nutritional and environmental needs of cattle.

57 No matter how long you house the animals, their accommodation should give them shelter and enough room to move around and interact with each other. The accommodation should provide enough space for a subordinate animal to move away from a dominant one. It is important to provide as comfortable an area as possible, so that the animals can lie down for as long as they want and have enough space to stand up again. The floor should not slope too steeply - no more than about 10% - as steeper slopes can cause leg problems, slipping and falling.

58 You should keep all concrete yards and passageways in good condition. They should not be too rough as this can graze or even cut the soles of the animals' feet. On the other hand, the yards and passageways must not be worn smooth, as the animals are then likely to slip and possibly cause leg and other damage. You should not let slurry build up on concrete floors and passageways, as this will also make the floor slippery.

59 Where slatted floors are used, you should pay particular attention to the type of slats, to avoid slipperiness. The gaps between the slats should not be wide enough to cause foot injuries (for example, when hooves get trapped). You should only use slatted pens for the size of animals that they were designed for.

60 You should not use fully-slatted concrete floors for breeding cows or replacement heifers. Where there are slats, part of the accommodation should be a solid-floor area with straw or some other suitable bedding material, so that the animals will be comfortable and less likely to injure themselves particularly their udders.

61 You should keep bulls reared for slaughter in small groups, ideally no more than 20 animals in each. You should not normally add bulls to groups already formed, and neither should you add one group to another to send to slaughter. You should keep groups of bulls at a safe distance from female cattle.

Straw yards

62 Ideally, for dairy herds you should completely clean out straw yards every four to six weeks. This is so that the cows do not get too dirty and to reduce the risk of mastitis from bacteria in the bedding (environmental mastitis). If you use straw yards, you should top them up with clean, dry straw every day. In the case of suckler herds, the frequency of cleaning out and topping up can be reduced. You should make sure that there is enough clean and dry straw available for as long as the animals are housed. Where possible, you should store this straw under cover to keep it dry. There should be enough space for all the animals to lie in comfort at the same time, and to stand up and move freely.

63 There should be enough room for all the animals in the management group to lie down and move around freely. Where feed and water troughs are accessible from the bedded area, measures should be put in place to reduce fouling. Where feed and water troughs are provided in the adjacent loafing area, the access areas should be sufficiently wide to permit free movement of animals and prevent routes becoming wet, fouled and slippery. Where a loafing area is used it should, ideally, be partly covered. You will need to control the build-up of slurry in passageways and loafing areas by scraping at least twice a day.

64 Where appropriate, you should take cows that are bulling away from the main group temporarily, so that the risk of teat injuries is reduced and the straw yard will not be churned up. Churned-up straw can dirty the cows and may lead to mastitis.


65 If you are installing cubicles or adapting your existing facilities, you should get specialist advice. You need to consider the size, shape and weight of the animals when you design the cubicles. Cubicle passageways should be wide enough for cows to pass one another easily.

66 Cubicles should be designed to encourage cows to lie down and stand up easily without injuring themselves. You need to have enough bedding to:

  • keep the cows comfortable
  • prevent them from getting contact of pressure sores (from always lying in the same or cramped positions)
  • keep the cows' teats, udders and flanks clean

You must never use a bare, solid base in the cubicles. The kerb should not be so high that it strains the cows' legs as they enter or leave the cubicle, neither should the bed be so low that it becomes contaminated with slurry.

67 Where you do have cubicles, you should have at least one for each cow. About 5% more cubicles than the number of cows in the management group is recommended. You should train heifers to lie correctly in cubicles by encouragement (giving them familiar bedding), rather than by restraint (such as tethering them).

68 It is important that you keep slurry to a minimum, either by scraping out the passageways at least twice a day or by using slatted passageways. You should clean the cubicle base each day and replace the bedding as necessary, to keep the lying area clear of manure.


69 In cowsheds, the lying area should be big enough to help keep the cows clean and comfortable and to avoid them damaging their joints. You need to untie tethered cows and let them exercise at least once a day and give them feed and water if it is a long exercise period. The animals should also be able to groom themselves when tethered. The cowshed needs to be well ventilated.

70 Feed and water troughs should be designed and placed where smaller animals cannot get into them and you should keep the troughs clean. Where particular feeds are not provided ad lib, the troughs should enable all the animals in the pen to eat at the same time to avoid excessive aggression.

71 The internal surfaces of housing and pens should be made of materials that you can clean and disinfect and easily replace when necessary.

72 If you are going to treat these surfaces, use paints or wood preservatives that are safe to use with animals. There is a risk of lead poisoning from old paintwork, especially if you use second-hand building materials.

Space allowances

73 You should work out the space allowance for cattle housed in groups in terms of:

  • the whole environment
  • the age, sex, liveweight and behavioural needs of the stock
  • the size of the group
  • whether any of the animals have horns

And you should base your decision on expert advice.


The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388) Schedule 1, paragraph 13, states that:

  • air circulation, dust levels, temperature, relative air humidity and gas concentrations must be kept within limits which are not harmful to the animals.

74 All new buildings should be designed with the animals' comfort in mind, and with the aim of preventing respiratory diseases. The buildings should provide enough ventilation throughout the year for the type, size and number of stock to be housed in them. Where appropriate, roofs should be insulated to reduce solar penetration.

75 Where the ventilation in existing buildings is not good enough, you should adapt these buildings by improving air inlets and outlets, or by using mechanical equipment (such as a fan).

76 When you are removing slurry from under slats, you must take special care to avoid fouling the air with dangerous gases (such as methane), which can kill both humans and animals. Ideally, slurry tanks should be emptied when the building is not in use. Where it becomes necessary to remove slurry when cattle are being housed, you should take all stock out of the building. Buildings should be well ventilated during this procedure.


The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388), Schedule 1, Paragraph 3 states that:

Where animals are kept in a building, adequate lighting (whether fixed or portable) must be available to enable them to be adequately inspected at any time.

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388), Schedule 1, paragraphs 14-16 state that:

  • animals kept in buildings must not be kept in permanent darkness
  • where the natural light available in a building is insufficient to meet the physiological and ethological needs of any animals being kept in it then appropriate artificial lighting must be provided
  • animals kept in buildings must not be kept without an appropriate period of rest from artificial lighting

77 During daylight hours, indoor lighting - whether it is natural or artificial - should be bright enough for you to clearly see all the housed cattle and for the cattle to feed and behave normally. Also, you should have enough fixed or portable lighting available at any time if you need to inspect any animals, for example, during calving.


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