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Cow comfort key to stand-off pads

Cow comfort key to stand-off pads

Farmers considering investing in stand-off pads must make cow comfort their number one priority, according to new DairyNZ research.

Information from the three-year study into stand-off pads, a farm facility which helps farmers prevent pasture damage in wet weather, has been released in a new resource – Stand-off pads – your essential guide to planning, design and management.

DairyNZ farm systems specialist Chris Glassey says the research followed eight North Island farms with stand-off pads during the winter months of May until August. The Northland and Waikato farms were monitored for hours of pad use, pad stocking density, surface material deterioration and cow comfort.

“We used activity meters on cows on a stand-off pad in Northland and found that the cows’ comfort levels were well-maintained over the winter period. That’s the encouraging bit, the cows liked it,” says Chris.

“Their comfort was measured by time spent lying down. Cows need to lie down for at least eight hours a day and will spend time lying in the paddock, instead of grazing, if the stand-off pad isn’t comfortable and with enough space.

“The key to the Northland pad’s success was designing it correctly with appropriate drainage, then regularly topping up and replacing the surface material (woodchip) to create a surface the cows wanted to lie on.”

The new guidelines are designed to help farmers establish and run stand-off pads which keep cows comfortable, fit with the farm system and prevent pasture damage by cows.

“Most farmers are looking for the simplest, most established methods of minimising winter and summer pasture damage,” says Chris. “There are new practices and knowledge gained by farmers over the years, which we have learnt from and included in the new guide.”

Chris says the research showed after just one pugging event over winter, pasture production can be halved for up to seven weeks.

“Approximately 40 percent of the ground was bare after moderate treading in winter and pasture took two months to recover, during which time pasture growth fell by 600kg DM/ha,” says Chris.

“Through pasture reduction, pugging can have an impact on milk production.”

North Island farmers wintering herds on wetter soil types and upper North Island farmers using on-off grazing to protect summer pasture, are particularly likely to consider stand-off pads and will find the guide useful.

“Despite standing off being around for some time, larger herds now make it more complex, bringing increased costs. Containment of effluent and greater requirements to meet cow comfort levels are also more important.”

The updated guidelines, Stand-off pads – your essential guide to planning, design and management, are now available as a result of the research project by DairyNZ, MPI Sustainable Farming Fund, Northland Dairy Development Trust, AgResearch and dairy farmers.

To find out more or order a copy of the new guidelines, visit www.dairynz.co.nz/stand-off-pads.

-ENDS-

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