Animal welfare

Milk producers care about the welfare of their cows. In addition, many studies have shown that a well-treated cow will produce better quality milk in greater quantity. A study by Cornell University in the State of New York, U.S.A., proved that when cows are pampered and brushed, they produce up to 1 kg of additional milk per day and are up to 30% less likely to develop mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland.

To govern the welfare of dairy cattle, milk producers adopted the Code of Practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle in 1990. It specifically discusses the standards for animal living conditions, food, health care and transportation that must be maintained. This guide was updated in 2009 with the assistance of the Canadian Animal Health Coalition, the Canadian Federation of Human Societies, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Les Producteurs de lait du Québec, in addition to scientists, veterinarians, experts, producers and citizens.

Are cows happier in the pasture or the stable?

2b4_bienetreanimal03In the summer, producers send their cows out to pasture to graze on fresh grass. Pastures provide cows with good food and a chance to exercise.

Some producers prefer to keep their cows inside in order to better monitor the food each cow consumes or because of the environmental constraints imposed on producers who send their cows outside. Examples of these constraints include building fences to keep cows from watercourses, providing water troughs, creating areas for exercise, etc.

Nowadays, modern stables offer cows a degree of comfort that earlier buildings could not: more space in the stalls, better ventilation, rubber mats, etc.


Growing numbers of new buildings now have “poly curtains” that replace the glass in the openings (windows). These buildings are known as “natural ventilation” buildings. Their curtains open and close automatically in order to control the air circulation and temperature inside the stable. Adjustments are made electronically in the winter and summer. Because cows wear a fur coat all year round, the sweltering heat of summer can cause cows to get too hot and suffer. As a result, they eat less and produce less milk. In addition, biting insects that harass animals outside can be controlled in the buildings, and this reduces the stress of the cows.

When they have new stables built, some producers opt for “loose housing,” which allows the unattached cows to move freely inside the building. Others choose “stall housing,” where each cow has its own space (stall with bedding, drinking trough and feed trough). Finally, some producers also practice mixed management, in which the cows can freely access an outdoor exercise area or are sent to pasture at night, after the last milking.

Code of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals – Dairy Cattle

Michel Lemire – Investing in the comfort of cows

Michel Lemire and his son, milk producers in St-Zéphirin-de-Courval, tell us about their continuing efforts to improve the living environment of their cows.


Sabrina Caron – Milk production enthusiast

Sabrina Caron, a milk producer in Laurierville, Quebec, gives you peak inside her dairy farm. She tells us about her love of milk production and dairy cattle.