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Alternative Dairy Initiative
Here at ADI, we encourage the use of humane practices.
Alternative Dairy Initiative
Animals should be able to exhibit their natural behaviors.

Animal Welfare

The Humane Society of the United States put out a report focused on the welfare of U.S. dairy cows. The first paragraph sums up their concerns:

More than 9 million cows compose the U.S. dairy herd. Repeated reimpregnation, short calving intervals, overproduction of milk, restrictive housing systems, poor nutrition, and physical disorders impair the welfare of the animals in industrial dairy operations. Once their productivity wanes, the cows are often weak as a result of high metabolic output. Typically, these “spent” dairy cows are culled and processed as ground beef. In their fragile end-of-production state, handling, transport, and slaughter raise additional welfare concerns. (HSUS report)

Evidence of these less-than-ideal conditions can be seen in the average lifespan of an American dairy cow. Naturally, a cow can live for over 20 years. In the dairy industry, a cow is typically slaughtered under 5 years of age, about 2.4 lactation cycles.  

The report continues to evaluate a host of issues, of which these are but a few:

  • Diminished Body Condition

  • Lameness

  • Mastitis

  • Tail-Docking

  • Stereotypies

  • Rumen Acidosis & Laminitis

  • Ketosis

  • Milk Fever

  • Inbreeding

  • Decline in Fertility

  • Large Offspring Syndrome

  • Reduced Lying and Resting

  • Abnormal Behavior

  • Reduced Self-Grooming

  • Increased Stress and Aggression

  • Hypoalgesia

Don’t worry, there’s hope! The report concludes to show that many of these issues can be alleviated through changes in infrastructure, herd management, & handling practices.

*While the majority of dairy animals in the U.S. are cows, many sheep, goats, water buffalo, and more suffer from inhumane treatment as well.

There are many third-party certification services focused on animal welfare. You may have seen some of the following names on labels:

Certified Humane created a chart breaking down the differences between these standards, which you can see here.

Here at ADI, we hope to inform both consumers and producers as to the benefits associated with alternative management practices so that the overall welfare of dairy animals across the country can be improved.

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