UK dairy farmers have rejected the 'sensationalist picture' painted of their industry by the BBC Panorama programme ‘A Cow's Life: The True Cost of Milk?’.

The programme detailed cases of animal abuse on a Welsh dairy farm, and highlighted lameness and the removal of calves from their mothers at birth.

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers said it was 'saddened' by the Welsh case, but insisted that this 'inexcusable abuse' was not representative of the industry as a whole.

RABDF managing director Matt Knight said: "UK dairy farmers operate to some of the highest welfare standards in the world due to the robust and comprehensive legal frameworks protecting animal welfare alongside the credible quality assurance schemes and initiatives that exist. Cow welfare is at the heart of everything they do. Happy cows are productive cows, which is why it is so important.

"Our farmers work long hours, often going weeks without a break to ensure the health and welfare of their cows are maintained. So, we are sad the BBC has chosen to highlight one farm where inexcusable abuse was witnessed, as this is not representative of our industry," he said.

Mr Knight added: "While the inclusion of the Ethical Dairy in Scotland, whereby calves are kept with their mothers, showed high welfare, the system is not commercially viable for most dairy farmers, with the programme highlighting that most of the liquid milk was consumed by the calves.

"The programme did, however, highlight the fact many farmers are losing money or making very little money, which is important as the value of milk is underestimated by the vast majority of consumers both in monetary and nutritional terms. It is time milk and dairy products are valued correctly," added Mr Knight.