Dairy cattle

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ALL our fresh milk 

Because all our dairy cows are free range. In April 2022 we improved our already leading animal welfare commitment with the pledge that all our dairy cattle will spend at least 180 days a year grazing outside – an increase from 120 days. For the first time, farmers are leaving their gates open during spring and summer, so the cows have the freedom to do as they please.

“Like us, cows are sentient beings that like to exercise freedom of choice,” says Waitrose milk producer Andrew Booth. “To decide whether to be inside or outside, to lie in the sun or to take shelter from the rain. Giving them that choice and enabling them to demonstrate and articulate their natural behaviours whenever and wherever possible is fundamental to ensuring they live happy and enriching lives.”

We are the only supermarket to make this pledge, and in practice, herds spend longer outside when the weather permits ­– because like people, cows would rather avoid the rain.

The pledge is just one of the reasons Waitrose wins awards for its farming. Look out for our animal welfare marque on our own-label meat and fish.

Award-winning supermarket for animal welfare
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We like to KEEP our dairy cows HAPPY

  • We work only with farmers we know and trust, sourcing all our own-label milk from British herds. This means we can guarantee animal health and welfare standards.

  • We pay farmers a fair and leading price for their milk – so they can invest in the future of their farms. We think they are doing a great job.

  • We are committed to animal welfare and giving cows the freedom to graze in spring and summer. Most years, our herds are outside with access to fresh grass for around 200 days but it depends on the weather. Cows, like people, do not like rain.

  • When the weather turns, herds are sheltered in comfortable airy barns with plenty of room to lie and turn around. The cows like to mill in groups and lie on fresh bedding – with lots of readily available food and water.
  • As well as access to lots of water, fibre-rich grass and silage, our cows are provided with brushes they can rub against to keep their coats in good condition.

  • Our farmers take care of their herds in a calm and gentle manner because dairy cows are shy by nature, and socialise in their herds. They also enjoy time and space to ruminate.

  • Some of our dairy farmers use special cow ‘fitbits’ to make sure the animals are moving around, eating well and staying fit and happy.

MEET the farmer

On David Homer’s farm in Wiltshire, the cows are busy doing what cows like to do: grazing on lush, green grass, lying down to chew the cud and, from time to time, lifting their tails to help David out with a supply of fertiliser. ‘‘You only have to look at them to see they’re happy to be out,’’ says David. ‘‘They like being in the fresh air and grazing on the fresh grass.’’

Back in 2016, David’s cows featured in a television advert for Waitrose, highlighting our grazing promise.

‘‘We keep an eye on the weather and the ground conditions, and how much grass is available, but they’re usually outside by the beginning of March,’’ says David. ‘‘That first day, you can see how pleased they are to get out – they bounce about with their tails up, and hop and skip around. Then they’ll graze through the summer into the autumn, and we won’t bring them indoors until it gets cold and wet, around the first week of November.’’

image of a dairy cow farmer, David Homer

David Homer's dairy herds have been filmed for a Waitrose TV ad

‘You only have to look at them to see they’re happy to be out. They like being in the fresh air and grazing on fresh grass'

“This time outdoors allows the cows as natural a life as possible, with freedom to move, graze and form social bonds. During winter, they’re brought inside to roomy sheds with comfortable bedding and plenty of space to move around.

‘‘Waitrose standards are high,’’ says David. ‘‘The Essential Waitrose milk looks the same as the milk you’d get in any other supermarket, and the price is the same too – but the way it’s produced, the way the farmers work and follow the best practice protocols makes it different. Our cows are out grazing, we’re careful about what we feed them, our health and welfare standards are monitored – and that’s been going on for nearly 20 years. The care we take to make Waitrose milk makes it unique.’’

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Shy by nature, dairy cows thrive when they are looked after in a calm and gentle manner


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