Animal Wellbeing

Cows are the heart of every dairy farm, and their wellbeing is of paramount importance to us.
We know there is a close relationship between well-cared for cows and good milk production which is why animal care is a source of pride for every farmer.

We are committed to managing animals responsibly and continuously improving animal welfare outcomes through promotion of positive experiences as described by the ‘Five Domains’, as well as eliminating practices that contravene the ‘Five Freedoms’.


In recent years the focus for animal welfare internationally has shifted from simply aiming to reduce negative experiences, to recognising the importance of increasing positive experiences.

In line with this shift in focus, Fonterra now references the Five Domains as well as the Five Freedoms when describing our animal welfare approach.

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

The Five Domains recognise that both positive and negative experiences in each of the four physical domains (nutrition, environment, health, behaviour) contribute to the overall mental state of an animal.

Here at Fonterra we strive to provide positive experiences for our cows in all four physical domains. We want our cows to be:

Well-fed (Nutrition)
Comfortable (Environment)
Healthy (Health) 
Content (Behaviour)

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

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

Our commitments

We partner with our milk and dairy ingredients suppliers to support the adoption of good management practices to continuously improve animal health and welfare and biosecurity outcomes, including 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 include The Co-operative Difference framework, supporting prudent use of antibiotics, and our Cared for Cows programme.

We work with stakeholders to increase understanding of animal welfare in a dairy context.

Our activities include industry collaboration, public education, and enhancing enrichment.

We collaborate with governments, international organisations, industry and other key stakeholders to achieve robust animal welfare and biosecurity regulations, standards and systems that are aligned.

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 System, our mastitis control support, and our involvement in biosecurity readiness and response.


Caring for animals - our approach 

We work with our farmers to meet globally recognised standards as set by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

We implement practices that provide positive experiences as described by the Five Domains and eliminate practices that contravene the Five Freedoms.

Fonterra is part of the Dairy Tomorrow Strategy – which aims to make the New Zealand dairy sector "world leading in animal care".

Our responsibility to animal welfare extends to wherever we operate in the world and we are committed to ensuring that good welfare outcomes are consistently delivered by all dairy farmers that supply us with milk.

We share our knowledge of best practice with other countries and assess the welfare of animals as part of our on-going quality assessments in all markets.

We exert our influence on our supply chain to deliver continuous improvement and ultimately, if farmers don’t meet our minimum requirements, they can’t supply milk to us.