Welfare of cattle: code of practice

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

Pregnancy and calving

Schedule 5 states that:

Where any cows which are calving are kept in a building, they must be kept:

(a) in a pen or a yard which is of such a size as to permit a person to attend the cows; and

(b) separate from other livestock other than calving cows.

90 A large proportion of calving difficulties and losses can be prevented by making sure that cows are at the correct condition at calving. Stock-keepers in charge of calving should be:

  • familiar with all the signs that a cow is about to calve
  • well trained in caring for calving cows and their calves, including the use of mechanical calving aids

91 You should always provide adequate supervision at calving, whilst ensuring that calving cows should not be disturbed, unless there are indications that the birth process is not proceeding normally. Enough space should be available to allow cows to exhibit their normal behaviour at calving. If space is limited, you should not house heifers with older cows, as the cows may dominate their feeding and lying areas.

92 Before you use any type of recognised calving aid, you should examine the cow to make sure that the calf is properly presented ( i.e. in the correct position - head first, the right way up and with the head between the two front feet). You also need to check that the calf is not too large for a natural delivery, so that it will not cause any unnecessary pain or distress to either mother or offspring.

93 If you have any concerns about the presentation or the ability to calve naturally, you should get advice from a veterinary surgeon immediately.

94 If you help in the delivery, good hygiene of both yourself and the equipment, is essential. You should clean and disinfect calving aids and ropes after each time you use them. You should only use calving aids to help with a delivery, not to extract the calf as quickly as possible. Calving ropes need to be flexible and thick enough not to damage the calf. After the birth, you should treat the calf's navel with a suitable antiseptic to prevent infection, particularly when calves are born inside.

95 Where calving pens are used, you should do everything possible to prevent the build-up and spread of infection by making sure that they have enough clean bedding and that they are regularly cleaned and disinfected.

96 Where cows and their calves are group housed, calves should have a separate solid floor and bedded area which the cows are unable to access.

97 Calving should not be induced routinely. Induction does have a role to play in preventing oversized calves, but you should seek advice from your veterinary surgeon.


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