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Guernsey achieves first RSPCA Assured dairy farms

15 July 2020

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RSPCA Assured is the RSPCA's ethical farm animal welfare and food labelling scheme.  It is dedicated to ensuring farm livestock enjoy a high quality of life.  It covers every aspect from feed and water, the environment animals live in, healthcare, and transport. 

The first to receive the accreditation was Meadow Court Farm, closely followed by Varioufs Farm. James Watts, of Meadow Court Farm, said it recognised years of work focusing on animal welfare.

"It is important for consumers to know that our cows are well looked after, and the RSPCA Assured scheme provides that reassurance.  It is the highest standard a dairy farm can attain, so we are extremely proud of this achievement," he said.

"My whole career has been focused on looking after our herd better.  As a result, we have fewer health issues year on year, which has reduced our annual vet and medicine bills."  

Key criteria that the RSPCA Assured inspectors look for is the cows having access to outdoors, and any buildings they use are well ventilated to ensure there is a lot of fresh air.  They should also be provided with brushes to scratch on, and comfortable, clean beds, and the specific needs of calves have to be met. 

To achieve RSPCA Assured approval, these provisions have to be well-documented and detailed records maintained. Assessors also carried out a visual inspection of all the cows and young stock.

Mr Watts said as well as being more productive, having healthier cows ultimately improves the quality and taste of the milk.

"RSPCA Assured certification acknowledges that we farm in a good way. Although it was quite onerous initially, it has become routine and just part of the way we work, so it should now be a lot easier.

"We provide our cows with a carefully balanced diet throughout the year, to meet the nutritional demands relevant to their level of milk production. From mid-April through to mid-October grazed grass forms part of this diet, so cows spend around six months of the year going out in the fields. If there is any unseasonal weather over that time, we'll let them stay inside where it is more comfortable and sheltered."

While Meadow Court Farm is the first to achieve the standard, all Guernsey dairy farms are in the process of becoming RSPCA Assured. Guernsey Dairy will then be able to use the schemes nationally recognised logo on its milk cartons.

Guernsey Dairy Quality and Compliance Manager, Alex Tielles, said: "Local farmers are passionate about the welfare of their beautiful and iconic Guernsey cows. They are all working extremely hard to achieve this certification, which has been no small challenge with the added pressures of Covid-19. As well as ensuring the highest levels of animal welfare, RSPCA Assured certification will promote the island as a centre of farming excellence."

States Veterinary Officer, David Chamberlain said good animal welfare is based on scientific evidence, and can be applied to all types of husbandry.

"It applies whether the animals are indoors or outdoors, and on small farms or massive farms. Their welfare is dependent not only on their environment, but importantly the farmer's 'stockmanship'," he said.

"Ensuring good welfare doesn't just benefit the animal. They become more productive and produce higher quality products, which also benefits the farmer and ultimately the consumer. Understanding the connection between welfare and production makes farming more efficient and profitable."

"The RSPCA Assured certification demonstrates that animal welfare needs are being met. Importantly for the consumer it will enhance the quality of Guernsey milk."

Joe Bailey, Head of Farming, RSPCA Assured said: "It has been a pleasure to have worked with such a progressive team at Guernsey Dairy and States of Guernsey. Everyone has come together so co-operatively to bring this project to fruition - not just for improved welfare for the cows but also for a better working environment for those who look after them. A win for all involved".

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