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Cared For Cows

In New Zealand, cows are at the heart of our dairy farming business and farmers take their welfare very seriously.

Well-cared-for cows are healthy cows, and healthy cows produce high quality milk.

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In New Zealand, we know our cows are healthy and well-cared for because:


Our cows graze outside on grass, as nature intended.

  • Our cows are able to graze outdoors most of the time on grass, a natural food for cows. On average 85 per cent of our cows’ diet is grass, grass silage, hay and forage crops, which is grown on our farms.
  • Due to our country’s temperate climate, New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where cows can graze outside, year round.


We make sure that our cows are healthy and comfortable.

  • Our farmers are independently assessed every year for animal welfare, food safety and quality, and environmental standards.
  • Farmers use tools such as body condition scoring to monitor cow condition. Body condition scoring helps farmers to make decisions on-farm on managing nutrition and cow health
  • Our cows have low somatic cell counts, which are an indicator of bacterial infection. The lower the somatic cell count, the lower the incidence of infection in our animals.
  • New Zealand is free from many diseases such as brucella abortus, brucella melitensis, infections, pleuropneumonia, sheep and goat pox, as well as foot and mouth disease.
  • Our farmers use low levels of antibiotics in animals as our cows have low levels of diseases.
    • Our pasture-based farming system means our cows are exposed to lower levels of bacteria than cows kept in indoor systems, such as barns.
    • New Zealand has been ranked as the third lowest use of antibiotics in animals in the world.
  • Our farmers don’t use recombinant bovine somatotrophin(rBST) to increase milk production. The use of hormonal growth-promoting hormones in milking animals is banned in New Zealand. We do not support the continued use of these products.
  • Our farmers consult at least annually with a vet on their animals’ health.


We uphold strong animal welfare standards in New Zealand that reflect global best practice.

  • Animal welfare means how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress, a position we strongly support.
  • If farmers don’t meet our animal welfare standards, they can’t supply milk to us.
  • These requirements are set out in our Terms and Conditions of Supply, and in our Group Animal Welfare and Biosecurity Policy.
  • We have an “Early Response System” in place with industry organisations and the New Zealand Government to identify at-risk farms, and we work proactively with them to resolve any issues.
  • Fonterra adheres to New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act, which sets animal welfare standards. The internationally recognised Five Freedoms are a cornerstone of the Animal Welfare Act and are reflected in the minimum standards of the Code of Welfare: Dairy Cattle in New Zealand and also in the new welfare regulations..
    These are:
    • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst;
    • Freedom from Discomfort;
    • Freedom from Pain, Injury, and Disease;
    • Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour;
    • Freedom from Fear and Distress.
  • We support the new regulations; http://www.mpi.govt.nz/law-and-policy/legal-overviews/animal-welfare/animal-welfare-regulations/,  including those that place a mandatory requirement for use of pain relief for disbudding, dehorning and castration. We estimate from our farm assessments and surveys that greater than 70% of calves now receive pain relief for disbudding. New regulations prohibiting tail docking of cattle will ensure the practise, currently used at low levels will cease.
  • We keep our farmers up-to-date with the latest animal welfare practices and requirements, and we work closely with dairy industry bodies to provide farmers with comprehensive training and information on animal health and welfare.


New Zealand is globally recognised for our high animal welfare standards.

  • New Zealand has been given an ‘A’ rating on the global Animal Protection Index. We are ranked in first place along with the UK, Austria and Switzerland.


We advocate for high standards of animal health and welfare, both in New Zealand and overseas.


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To read our Fonterra statement that confirms that the facts presented are true and genuine to the best of our knowledge.

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