Search icon

Defra's Milk Roadmap - we need a better route

News Section Icon Published 09/05/2008

The Milk Roadmap, published this month by Defra, presents a 'cradle to grave' assessment of the environmental impacts of UK liquid milk production and highlights areas where efforts can be concentrated to reduce those impacts.

Livestock production is responsible globally for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Methane emitted by cows is a major contributor.

Unfortunately, the Milk Roadmap focuses too strongly on increasing yields per cow. This means fewer cows are needed to produce the same amount of milk. Fewer cows then produce less methane.

However, producing more milk brings welfare risks for cows. Increasing production over the years has been associated with higher levels of lameness and infertility. The life expectancy of the cows has declined as lame or infertile cows are sent early to slaughter. Making these hard working animals work even harder is not the right solution to this problem. Cows deserve a work-life balance too.

There are some good suggestions in the Roadmap. Encouraging farmers to adopt herd health plans would be good for welfare and for production. Ensuring that more dairy calves are reared for beef rather than shot at birth, as recommended by the Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholder Forum, would be a positive step.

We need an integrated approach that meets the needs of both animals and the environment. Policies should aim to:

  • Breed a more robust dairy cow with increased health and longevity
  • Encourage the use breeds of dairy cow which produce male calves suitable for economic beef production
  • Encourage more moderate and sustainable consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products in line with nutritional recommendations

Further reading:


You are using an outdated browser which we do not support. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).