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, Paragraph 17, states that:

Animals not kept in buildings must, where necessary and possible, be given protection from adverse weather conditions, predators and risks to their health and, at all times, have access to a well-drained lying area.

79 Where there is no natural or artificial shelter to protect grazing stock from extreme weather conditions, you should move them to a more suitable area. Shelter or natural shade from trees or hedges is important in summer as heat stress causes animals (particularly high-yielding cows and dark-coated suckler cows) severe problems such as:

  • abnormal breathing
  • severe loss of appetite
  • serious weight loss
  • anoestrus (cows not coming into season)

80 Where animals are outwintered they must have access to a well-drained lying area and, where possible, be provided with shelter from adverse weather conditions.

81 You should have a concrete standing area, or well-drained, suitable surface, that will not injure animals' feet around feed and water troughs. The surface on which the animals walk to reach the troughs should also be well drained. Otherwise, you should move the troughs quite often so that the animals are not standing in the same muddy and fouled areas.

82 You should take all practical measures to remove all cattle from areas that are in imminent danger of flooding.

83 You should keep all the farms' fields and buildings clear of debris such as wire or batteries (with their risk of lead poisoning), or plastic or sharp metal objects that could injure the cattle or rip out their ear tags and damage their ears.

Fencing and hedges

84 You should look after your fences, trim hedges and remove any obstructions or snags (on hedges, gates, fences or feeding troughs) that could catch on ear tags.

85 You should make sure that any electric fences are designed, constructed, used and maintained properly, so that when the animals touch them they only feel slight discomfort. All power units for electric fences must be properly earthed to prevent short circuits or electricity being conducted anywhere it should not be, for example, gates and water troughs.

Injurious weeds

86 You should control injurious (harmful) weeds because they can harm animals by:

  • poisoning them (for example, ragwort)
  • injuring them (for example, thistle)
  • reducing their grazing area by reducing the edible plants that are available

Under the Weeds Act 1959, Scottish Ministers may serve an enforcement notice on an occupier of land on which one or more of the five injurious weeds are growing requiring the occupier to take action to prevent the weeds from spreading. The Act permits officials to enter land to inspect whether an enforcement notice has been complied with. If an occupier has unreasonably failed to comply with the notice, he or she shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction liable to a fine. The Act also contains additional powers, which enable Scottish Ministers to take action to arrange for the weeds to be cleared and recover the cost of doing so, if necessary through the Courts. The five weeds that this legislation applies to are:

  • spear thistle (cirsium vulgare)
  • creeping or field thistle (cirsium arvense)
  • curled dock (rumex crispus)
  • broad-leaved dock (rumex obtusifolius)
  • common ragwort (senecio jacobaea)

Guidance on the Weeds Act is available from the Scottish Government (see the Appendix).

Fire and other emergency precautions

87 There should be plans in place to deal with emergencies at your farm, such as fire, flood or disruption of supplies (for example, no electricity for milking machines). The owner should make sure that all the staff are familiar with the appropriate emergency action. You will find more information in the Defra booklets, emergencies on livestock farms and farm fires: protecting animal welfare (see the Appendix).

88 It is important that you get advice about design when you are building or modifying a building. You need to be able to release and evacuate livestock quickly if there is an emergency by, for example, having outward opening doors and gates. You should consider installing fire alarms that can be heard and responded to at any time of the day or night.

89 You can get expert advice on all fire precautions from your local fire prevention officers and from the Fire Prevention Association.


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