Animal Welfare and Consumer Fear

Tail docking, rBST-free, organic, GMO-free, animal welfare, antibiotic usage – all are big buzz words in the dairy industry in the United States of America. Dairymen and women are under attack from an uninformed consumer public.

Mastitis and milk quality are not even on the radar of most dairies or consumers, yet we as dairymen need to focus on these important topics. A well-developed animal welfare program should be the basis of every successful dairyman’s business. Placing animal welfare practices at the forefront helps lead to a reduction in mastitis, which in turn means fewer intramammary antibiotic tubes. This ultimately results in higher milk quality, and hopefully, higher premium income for the dairy.

At my family’s dairy farm in south central Wisconsin, we strive to instill the importance of mastitis control and prevention and its role in higher milk quality to our employees. We accomplish this by sharing part of the cell count bonus we receive through our dairy co-op. Without employees seeing and understanding the importance that animal care has in controlling mastitis we leave ourselves vulnerable to a consumer backlash.

As dairymen, we accommodate many things into our busy days, from balancing the farm finances to taking care of our families. Now, consumers are demanding more transparency in what we do and how we do it, and they have firm ideas on how they want their food produced. We need to take the time to promote practices that result in healthy, sustainable food products. I challenge everyone to share the successful programs we implement with consumers and fellow dairymen alike.

Patrick Christian is co-owner and operator of Christian Hills Dairy in Lomira, Wisconsin, USA. He farms alongside his family on 3,000 acres. He has a Bachelors degree from Martin Luther College and a Masters degree from Marian University. He currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the National Mastitis Council.


Patrick Christian is co-owner and operator of Christian Hills Dairy in Lomira, Wisconsin, USA. He farms alongside his family on 3,000 acres. He has a Bachelors degree from Martin Luther College and a Masters degree from Marian University. He currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the National Mastitis Council.