Healthy Cows Make Happy Farmers

Article 4 min

The welfare of our cows means a lot to us. They are our prized possessions and the reason we get to do what we love to do, which is providing Canadians with the first-rate milk they deserve. The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) provides a guideline that keeps cow-handling practices consistent across all dairy farms.

By DFC - PLC, Communications Team
A dairy cow smiling for the camera


  • Healthy cows produces more milk
  • The National Farm Animal Care Council's Code of Practice sets standards that Canadian Dairy farmers are proud to follow

The deliciously pure, natural goodness of Canadian dairy we enjoy is only made possible because of our cows. Canadian dairy cows are the big cheeses when it comes to making the cheese (pun, intended). So, their wellbeing is very important to us. We recognize that a healthy cow makes for a happy farmer, and better milk.

The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFAAC) lists out a Code of Practice to be followed, that help make sure our dairy queens are feeling good. There are several aspects of cow-care that are detailed, including (but not limited to) healthcare, bedding, rest, stall conditions and husbandry practices. An assessment program was created in 2015, to verify that all farms respect the code.

The LELY JUNO robot pushes feed closer to the dairy cows in the barn
Juno, the gentle feed-pushing robot, helps ensure the cows get all the feed they need while minimizing waste at Lac La Nonne Dairy in Alberta.

We make sure our cows are healthy

The general welfare of a cow is linked to her health. As such, accurate and detailed health records are kept, and protocols are implemented to prevent disease transmission. Farmers are aware that their own attitudes and actions have a direct impact on their cow’s behaviour and comfort, and as such, take measures to ensure that human-animal interactions are positive. Cows respond well to comfortable bedding, good barn ventilation, brushes, gentle voices, music and other such factors that create a positive environment.

In terms of food, a cow’s nutrition is closely monitored, and her diet is specifically formulated to keep her in good health and producing nutritious, high quality milk. A happy, healthy cow produces more of the natural, pure milk we’ve grown accustomed to drinking.

Furthermore, cows are routinely monitored by both farmers and veterinarians to ensure their health is in good standing, and to prevent any issues from arising. As is the case with all of us, prevention is key!

Dairy cows feed in a Canadian barn
A barn with a view at MacInnis Brothers Farms in St. Peter’s Bay, Prince Edward Island.

We make sure our cows are comfortable

Comfortable living conditions can impact happiness. So, what makes a cow’s living conditions comfortable and conducive to rest? Cows should have proper bedding (mattresses are also a frequent sight in dairy barns). The bedding of choice consists of a few options, including: clean sand, straw, wood shavings, and sawdust. After all, cows do like to lie down for about 10 – 12 hours a day (not consecutively!) to ruminate.

Measures are usually taken to ensure the flooring has good traction (to prevent slips and falls). Their gait and hooves are consistently monitored, and they are given manicures to try and maintain their hooves and keep their legs healthy.

Barns are designed to allow enough space for comfort and health, while also maintaining ease of handling. There are interesting popular designs of windows (or balloons!) to allow for adequate ventilation and air quality, which react to outside temperatures to keep barns comfortable. Barns must also be cleaned frequently (through mechanical or automatic ways, thank goodness…or else that would be quite a lot of shoveling!).

A dairy farmer feeds a calf
Feeding a calf at Philippot Farms in St. Claude, Manitoba.

We establish first-rate husbandry practices

Husbandry practices carried out by farmers are outlined within the NFAAC’s Code of Practice and are honed over time through experience and in light of scientific research. The Code details that cows should always be handled in a calm fashion, and are moved in specific ways that keep them calm and prevent them from being frightened. Also, that farmers have routine contact with all cattle to build that confidence and relationship.

The best practices listed above are a glimpse into the guidelines each Canadian dairy farmer must follow.  Canadian dairy farmers collectively invest several hundred millions annually--in housing, technology and equipment to improve cow comfort. And Canadian dairy farmers frequently go above and beyond the listed guidelines. Many go as far as playing music for their cows (turns out they’re into slow jams…who knew!), give their cows “pedicures”, and hire dedicated nutritionists for customized meal plans.

Our cows mean a lot to us, and because of that, many steps are taken to ensure they’re always in a good moo’d. They give us the opportunity to provide Canadians with natural, deliciously pure Canadian milk. And we want to make sure that they receive the respect and care that they deserve. Every great Canadian dairy product comes from the milk of a great Canadian cow.

Dairy cows walking around a pasture in front of a Canadian barn
Dairy cows enjoy a beautiful day out in the pasture at Clover Crest Farm in Nova Scotia.


Fact Sheet. ‘Facts & Figures About Canadian Dairy Cows.’

National Farm Animal Care Council. ‘Animal Care Assessment Framework.’

Dairy Farmers of Canada : A Farmer’s Voice. ‘The Pampered Cow.’

ProAction. "Targets and Achievements: Animal Care."

Dalhousie University : News & Events. ‘The Conversation : In Defence of Canada’s Dairy Farmers.’

National Farm Animal Care Council : Code of Practice. ‘For the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle.’

NPR. ‘Moo-d Music : Do Cows Really Prefer Slow Jams?’