Farming: Cows

Many people don’t realise that a dairy cow needs to give birth in order to produce milk. What her life is like, and what happens to her new-born calf, is one of the dairy industry's darkest secrets. But investigations in 2015 and 2016 have exposed many of these issues.

Cows in New Zealand are primarily dairy cattle such as Holstein-Friesian, Holstein-Friesian Jersey crossbreeds, or Jersey breeds, that are farmed for their milk, or beef cattle such as Aberdeen Angus and Hereford breeds, as well as Friesian bulls born to dairy cows, that are farmed for meat [1]. Welfare concerns relate to the intensification of farming, and to housing and management, physical problems, painful husbandry procedures, and the welfare of calves.

The dairy industry also has substantial adverse impacts on New Zealand’s environment, and is a major emitter of greenhouse gases, which substantially contribute to climate change. Consumption of dairy products can also raise health concerns.

Uncover The Facts:

Natural cow lives

Industry overview

Intensifying production

Housing and management

Physical problems

Husbandry procedures

Calf welfare

Inadequate enforcement

Health and dairy alternatives

Environmental impacts

Dairy and the economy


  1. Stafford KJ. (2013). Animal Welfare in New Zealand. Cambridge, New Zealand: New Zealand Society of Animal Production.

Watch: 2016 Investigation: Cruelty Continues

Watch: 2015 Exposé: Dark Side of Dairy

Infographic: 'Dairy's Dirty Secrets'

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