Our Animal Wellbeing Standard

Care for animals’ wellbeing has been handed down through generations of Fonterra farmers.

The Animal Wellbeing Standard formalises the process for assessing and managing animal wellbeing on Fonterra’s farms. It sets out requirements, including processes for managing risk, capturing and submitting animal health data, and conducting internal audits. 

Monitoring animal wellbeing indicators helps to identify at-risk farms and provide appropriate ​​support.

Cows are the heart of our dairy farms

Being outside on pasture in the open air has positive benefits for our cows’ wellbeing. Pasture provides both natural nutrition and a soft surface for cows to rest and roam. 

They are exposed to lower levels of environmental bacteria, making them less susceptible to disease. Pasture based dairy farming also lets cows exhibit their natural behaviours, freely choosing where to eat, drink and who to socially interact with. 

Fonterra meets global and local standards

We uphold strong animal welfare standards in New Zealand that reflect global best practice. We work with Fonterra farmers to meet globally recognised standards as set by the World Organisation for Animal Health, implement practices that provide positive experience as described by the Five Domains and eliminate practices that contravene the Five Freedoms. While New Zealand farmers supply the majority of milk collected by Fonterra, we encourage good farming practices everywhere we operate in the world. 

Healthy cows means naturally nutritious milk for you

One measure of good animal husbandry is Somatic Cell Count (SCC), which indicates sub-clinical mastitis. The lower the SCC, the better. 

New Zealand cows typically have low SCCs. In fact, over the last five seasons the average SCC for Fonterra has been ​​​​171,977 which is below the internationally accepted level for low risk for infection.

Fonterra’s approach to animal wellbeing in New Zealand is based on the Five Domains
  • Freedom from hunger and thirst – Nutrition
  • Freedom from discomfort – Environment 
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease – Health
  • Freedom to express natural behaviour – Behaviour 
  • Freedom from fear and distress – Mental state

Positive experiences in each of the first four physical domains enhance the overall fifth domain – the mental state and wellbeing of our cows.

If you have concerns about dairy cattle welfare in New Zealand, contact the free and confidential Early Response Service: 0800 4 324 7969

Our commitments

We partner with our supplying farmers to support the adoption of good management practices to continuously improve animal health and welfare and biosecurity outcomes. These include implementing practices that provide positive experiences as described by the Five Domains and eliminating practices that contravene the Five Freedoms. Some of the ways we do this includes The Co-operative Difference and supporting prudent use of antibiotics.

We work with stakeholders to increase understanding of animal welfare in a dairy context. Our activities include industry collaboration, public education, and developing training for teams on farm.

We collaborate with governments, international organisations, industry and other key stakeholders to achieve robust animal welfare and biosecurity regulations, and standards. Examples include farmer education and training, our involvement in improving industry standards, and our international partnerships.

We initiate and participate in activities which advance animal health and welfare practices and supporting technology. This includes our role in research and development, and our on-farm advice and support.

We design and implement response and escalation protocols to ensure we are prepared and can manage pests and disease outbreaks. This includes our participation in the Early Response Service, our mastitis control support, our involvement in ​​biosecurity readiness and response, and our commitment to the Biosecurity Business Pledge.