Ensure optimum animal welfare and longevity of cows

The Sustainable Dairy Chain association aims at healthy cows that have good and long lives. Dairy farmers are stimulated to extend the lives of their cattle. Indicators for this are longevity, use of antibiotics, the WelzijnsMonitor [welfare monitor] and KalfOK [calf OK].


  • Responsible use of veterinary medicines
  • Responsible longevity
  • Taking good care of young cattle
  • Continuous improvement of animal welfare

Objectives 2030

  • Responsible use of veterinary medicines (in line with the values of the Netherlands Veterinary Medicines Institute SDa).
  • A minimum longevity (when cows leave the farm) equal to the average longevity of 2018 (5 years, 6 months and 20 days) at 90% of the dairy farms (2025: 70%).
  • At all dairy farms animal welfare is continuously monitored by the dairy farmer; in cooperation with the dairy company this is demonstrated by means of the WelzijnsMonitor [welfare monitor].
  • A KalfOK [calf OK] score higher than 75 at 90% of the dairy farms (2025: 80%).


2019 compared to objectives 2020

Main indicators

Objective 2020
Baseline measurement 2011
Result 2019
> 90% of farms below
SDa action value
Farms below the SDa action value (%)
Not applicable.
Half a year longer compared to
2011 (= 6 years, 2 months and 11 days)
Average age when leaving (years, months and days)
5 years,
8 months
and 11 days
5 years,
8 months
and 25 days
Animal welfare
Continuous improvement of animal welfare score.

Development of monitoring system (2017 at the latest).
Baseline measurement not done yet.
WelzijnsMonitor and KalfOK developed. Sector objective not defined yet.

The use of antibiotics decreased in 2019 by 48% compared to 2009.

With 99.8% of the farms below the SDa action value in 2019, the objective (90%) for responsible use of antibiotics was amply achieved.

After a substantial decrease in 2017 (because of the phosphate reduction plan) and 2018 (introduction of phosphate rights), the longevity of dairy cows substantially increased in 2019 to 5 years, 8 months and 25 days. There is still a large distance of 169 days to the extension of longevity objective for 2020.

In connection with the animal welfare monitoring the WelzijnsMonitor reporting module has been integrated into KoeKompas [cow compass] and it was applied to 14,350 participants of KoeKompas in 2019. A representative baseline measurement has not been done yet and no sector objective has been defined. These activities will take place in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

NB Results compared to objectives 2030 are not available yet.

Method of working

Responsible use of veterinary medicines

Approach in the sector

  • Maintain current level of use of antibiotics.
  • Monitor current approach of antibiotics.
  • In cooperation with the Stuurgroep Verantwoord Diergeneesmiddelengebruik [Steering group for responsible use of veterinary medicines].

The dairy sector aims at responsible use of antibiotics. The independent Autoriteit Diergeneesmiddelen [Netherlands Veterinary Medicines Institute] (SDa) has set a standard for responsible use of medicines in case of disease (expressed in Defined Daily Dose Animal – DDDA). The sector has successfully worked on reducing the use of antibiotics and the responsible use of medication in case of diseases, e.g. by controlling the indicators for DDDAs, by means of generic measures and a number of requirements at business level with respect to responsible use of medicines.

Thanks to this successful approach, the objective which the Sustainable Dairy Chain had set for 2020 has been achieved for several years already: over 90% of all dairy farms has complied with the standards set by the SDa since 2012.

Read more about the use of veterinary medicines on the page Antibiotica [Antibiotics] and in the documents referred to on this page.

Extend longevity

Approach in the sector

  • Insight into the state of affairs concerning the objective 2030 in total and for each dairy company.
  • Gain insight into the need of the DZK partners for support from DZK for reaching the objective.
  • Cooperation with other people visiting the farm / parties in the sector.
  • Research into continuous milking of cows (PPS project ‘Lactatie op Maat’ [Customised Lactation]) in order to gain insight into to the extension of the lactation length and with this lower the number of critical transition periods in the life of the cow.
  • Acquire knowledge with respect to forms of cooperation between dairy farmers and people visiting the farm to extend the longevity (Living Lab longevity in PPS DZK) with the aim to learn from ‘best practices’.
Healthy cows

Healthy cows have better lives, live longer, need less antibiotics and make a contribution tot other sustainability objectives, such as reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. This is good for the cow and the dairy farmer and it is socially appreciated.

Together with other parties in the sector, the Sustainable Dairy Chain stimulates extension of the longevity of their livestocks by dairy farmers. This is based on an integral approach and the professionalism of the dairy farmers. At business level it remains important to work on individual health aspects, such as udder health, claw health and fertility. At sector level a broad approach is implemented for fighting diseases such as BVD and IBR.

Taking good care of young cattle

Approach in the sector

  • Insight into the state of affairs with respect to the objective.
  • Exploration of the benchmark at the request of the Minister.
  • Develop new knowledge and insight aimed at strengthening the resilience and vitality of the young calf at the dairy farm and establishing innovations in the chain through PPS study Kansen voor het Kalf in de Keten [Chances for the Calf in the Chain].

KalfOK score provides insight into the rearing quality
Care for calves and young cattle is a hot topic. A good start is really important for the health and productivity during the rest of the life of the cow.

The Kalf Opfok Kwaliteit score [Calf Rearing Quality Score] (KalfOK score) was developed in order to provide dairy farmers proper and integral insight into their young cattle management. It is a uniform score system based on available data. The KalfOK score quarterly gives a dairy farmer insight into the quality of the rearing of all calves born/present at the farm. It stimulates improvement of the health and well-being of the calves.

KalfOK has been composed of data on birth and breeding, the use of antibiotics with calves and the business health status of calves and young cattle until they are two years old. The first life stage of the calf up to 14 days is an important part of the total of 12 indicators with which each farm can score a maximum of 100 points. The result provides insight into the quality of the calf rearing at the individual fairy farm and it also offers possibilities for comparing with other farms (benchmark).

This increases the awareness of the quality of calf rearing. The business overview also gives an indication of strong points and any bottlenecks in the rearing; these can be discussed with the own veterinarian of another consultant in the area of calf rearing. In this way, dairy farmers gain insight into which concrete measures are useful and this will motivate them to further improve the calf rearing.

The KalfOK score has been available for all dairy farmers since 2018. By now, about 95% of all dairy farmers makes use of this score.

The KalfOK score was developed by ZuivelNL in cooperation with dairy farmers, veterinarians and animal health experts and it is scientifically substantiated.

Figure: display of the 12 KalfOK score indicators