DairyNZ is encouraging farmers to check they meet new minimum standards included in an amended Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare.
The code has been recently amended by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the changes took effect from 31 October 2019.
Many of the changes relate to requirements in off-paddock facilities. Around 40% of farms use off paddock facilities and these are mostly used to feed cows when grass growth is limited. There are a range of off-paddock facilities being used in New Zealand including barns, feed pads and stand-off pads. These facilities can provide environmental and animal health benefits.
For farmers with off-paddock facilities:
- where cows are wintered on hard surfaces (like stones or concrete) with no soft lying area, a compressible surface (like rubber) needs to be available for cows to lie on
- calving cows on hard surfaces like concrete or stones must have a dry, non-slip covering such as straw or rubber matting. The amount of effluent build-up on the surface must also be managed
- calving cows in off-paddock facilities must have enough space to separate themselves from the herd
- wood chip pad facilities with no roof must have drainage that minimises ponding, to provide enough comfortable space for cows to lie down
- where concrete feed pads are used in wet weather and cows are kept on feed pads for most of the day for several days, some access to drier paddocks must be provided every day. As an alternative, farmers can also use rubber matting if the feed pad is used regularly to reduce pugging.
“The new minimum standards are designed to allow cows to express natural behaviours, such as lying comfortably, in all types of environments,” says Helen Thoday, animal care team leader at DairyNZ.
“Cows find surfaces with moisture levels higher than about 75% uncomfortable to lie down on. In a paddock, that level is about when you will see water in your gum boot prints,” she says.
DairyNZ will be working with farmers who winter cows on crop paddocks to find on-farm solutions to meet this requirement.