Vet's Statement

There's no doubt that modern dairy cows work hard for a living and at Town Head Farm in Grassington they are no exception. The 120 Holstein Friesian cows there produce an average of almost 30 litres of milk a day for ten months of the year. This sort of production is not possible unless cows are well cared for and in the peak of health so it's very much in the farm staff's interest to ensure their cows are well looked after.

In the summer months the herd graze Wharfedale's limestone pastures. In the colder months the ground is often too wet for cattle to stay outside without damaging the fields and grass grows too slowly so they are brought inside for winter. Modern cow housing is designed to cater for all a cow's physical and behavioural needs. Cows spend 12 to 14 hours a day lying down so the first requirement is for a comfortable bed; at Town Head Farm cows live in straw yards or in a cubicle house where they lie in individual beds on rubber mattresses. Grazing animals like cows have huge appetites and eat for six to eight hours each day to fill themselves. They are very social animals and feed as a herd so large troughs are needed to ensure that they can all eat and drink together without any risk of smaller cows being pushed out. Wide concrete passageways, which are treated to give cows maximum grip, provide lots of space for them to move freely around and interact with other members of the herd; these areas are scraped regularly to remove any dung so that cows and their beds stay as clean as possible. The herd is milked twice a day every day; their udders are first washed and dried before the milking machine is attached to collect the milk, and they receive a small feed during milking. As well as collecting the milk this task gives the herdsman chance to have a good look at every cow and make sure that they are all healthy and eating well.

Housing any animals (or people) in close proximity will increase the chances of any illness spreading amongst them. A lot of effort is made to ensure that this does not happen and the farm works closely with Kingsway Veterinary Group in Skipton to ensure that the herd is as healthy as possible. The vets have a proactive approach and regular meetings with the farm staff ensure good management practices are in place. Good feeding and an optimum environment that is clean, well lit and well ventilated are important in minimising stress and maximising cow health and welfare. Prevention is always better than cure. The Town Head herd breeds all its own replacements to avoid having to buy in animals that might bring problems with them. Vaccinations are used as part of the health program, just as they are in people, to protect cows against some common viral diseases. Foot-trimming is undertaken regularly to ensure their feet remain healthy.

Baby calves are suckled by their mothers to ensure that they receive the first milk or colostrum that gives them vital immunity from infections. They are then reared in groups in straw yards or small fields near the farm buildings after they are weaned, and, like the cows, fed a ration designed to keep them growing and healthy.

The milking parlour, buildings and farm records are all subject to independent audit to ensure that they comply with the latest regulations and dairy standards. All the livestock are checked at fortnightly veterinary visits where active monitoring of their health ensures that any potential problems are nipped in the bud and veterinary advice is sought if there are any health problems. The result of all this care is a healthy herd with a high standard of welfare, and quality milk in your fridge.