Dairy Farmers caught doctoring their cows’ udders in order to win show titles could lose their milk supply contracts.
That was the blunt warning this week from dairy industry analyst Ian Potter, who said that covert practices like teat-sealing to temporarily inflate udders for show glory were now “out in the open” – and welfare-sensitive companies further up the food chain would refuse to deal with the farmers responsible.
The dairy pundit’s poll of industry opinion also suggested that livestock shows that fail to clamp down on such practices would also lose corporate support and sponsorship. With the country’s next big dairy event, the UK Dairy Day at Telford, happening next Wednesday, Potter added that many welfare-friendly exhibitors, vets and others would now be operating as undercover spies to catch out any udder-fixing culprits.
The sponsor of the UK Dairy Day, Barclays bank, has made its position clear, stating: “We would not condone cruelty or mistreatment of livestock – for whatever purpose” – and pledging to review its involvement if any instances of the practice were brought to light.
Feed manufacturer Carrs Billington was equally direct, stating: “We would fully expect all shows where we are a sponsor to have robust and open veterinary inspection of in-milk dairy classes and it seems sensible that this should ensure free milk expression.
“With regard to a show that was found to have allowed a practice to take place that compromised animal welfare and caused unnecessary pain, we would certainly be prepared to withdraw future sponsorship on these grounds.”
Speaking for UK Dairy Day organisers Holstein UK, Rebecca Barningham said: “We will have two independent vets in place to monitor the cattle both in the lines and in the collection ring. We have also contacted all the exhibitors and reminded them to adhere to the rules. If not they will face the consequences.”
Even Defra’s chief veterinary officer, Nigel Gibbens, is on record as saying that teat sealing was “totally unacceptable”, and Defra’s expectation was that show vets would immediately report suspected breaches of any welfare rules to the Animal and Plant Health Agency for further investigation.
Crucially, Mr Potter said that most, if not all, of Britain’s biggest dairy retail customers would immediately distance themselves from any milk producer exposed as a show cheat: “My hope is that now such practices are out in the open, fair play will ensue. Inevitably, however, a handful might yet decide to play Russian roulette with a show’s image or sponsorship, or their own milk contract, in pursuit of winning at all costs.”
Jack Lawson, a director of Cattle Information Services and noted dairy commentator told The Scottish Farmer: “Ian Potter is right to highlight this problem. With regard to events such as AgriScot and the Highland Show, they are both strictly supervised.
“Anyone found guilty of teat sealing or other show fixing practices would immediately be disqualified and not allowed to enter the event again.”
Source: The Scottish Farmer