Some have rubber matting covering the concrete floor, or may have bedding such as straw on top of the slatted floor to improve comfort. Some have individual spaces (freestalls) where cows can lie down.
A strip of solid concrete along the outside lengths of the barn provides a feeding face and tractor lane.
Loose housed barns combine a feed pad and an off-paddock wintering facility for use during wet periods, or in autumn to reduce urine deposition on paddocks.
- Minimise pasture damage when soils are overly wet or prevent overgrazing (eg when pasture is insufficient to meet full herd demand) This should increase pasture production of supplements
- Better utilisation compared with paddock feeding
- Better herd monitoring may be possible, e.g. heat detection, animal welfare, BCS.
- Reduction in herd lameness may be possible, e.g. from reduction of cows standing in mud
- Opportunities to capture all effluent and apply to crop land or to pasture when soil moisture levels are appropriate
- Reduce farm maintenance costs (associated with paddock renovations following pugging, herd or machinery traffic)
- Medium-high capital outlay to establish
- Unless concrete has rubber matting not suited to long periods of use. Lameness can increase on slatted concrete.
- Not suitable for calving unless additional provision of bedding material to prevent damage to calf legs
- Business more reliant on quality supplements being grown or purchased. (vulnerable to season price changes)
- Supplementary feed costs typically greater than pasture.
- Increased building repair and maintenance
- Effluent management requires additional activities
System design considerations
- Location in relation to herd access - close to dairy (milking shed) is convenient but also dependent on location of feed storage areas and facilities intended use.
- Consenting - Council requirements for subsurface drainage and sealing usually require owner to demonstrate no leakage
- Roofed structures require structural engineering to take in to account wind, snowfalls, etc.
- Feed supply management plan – what is grown on farm/support blocks versus what is imported. Access to grain, silage and ability to feed with least traffic movements.
- Increased feed bunker area and machinery if increasing supplementary feeding*
- Must provide correct stocking density (3.5-4.0m2/cow) and feed face space per cow. Stocking density of 3-4.5m2/cow only when used as feedpad. Recommend that at this density it is used for less than 8 hours per day.
- Minimum 9m2/cow with additional soft bedding required for 24/7 use over extended periods of time (several days eg during winter).
- Consider effluent type (liquid and solid manure proportion depends on dry cow or lactating cow use, type of feed etc)
- Removal and application of effluent
Overall likely Costs
Feedpad use only 3-4.5m2/cow $1500-$2100 Facility including feed bins/alleys, water, bedding, machinery
Basic, Loose housed operational facility only for 400 cows, (no shares or stock)
9-11m2/cow required for more than 8 hours per day use over several days doubles the cost.
Ranges dependent on roof type, foundation type, flooring and effluent extraction, amount of concrete, including for feed areas, etc
Significant component costs of infrasturcture:
Site preparation earthworks
Base materials (eg clay, rock)
Roof and trusses
Concrete feeding area/s (for cows to stand on and/or feed to be fed out on)
Possible additional Costs
Dairy Company shares
First year feed inventory (if needed)
- Useful where additional effluent storage needed but could be cheaper options, e.g. roof over feedpad, expand pond storage
- Case studies and analysis indicate that once built, many farmers increase cows and levels of supplementary feeding.
- Costs of feeding supplements is typically 1.5x purchase cost of feed per kg.
- Size and usage will dictate cleaning frequency.
Off-Paddock Systems Resources
These resources will help with decisions around investment, planning, design, construction and management of off-paddock facilities.
Making the right choice
Investing in off-paddock facilities?
This booklet will help you to make an informed decision by assessing the benefits of various off-paddock facilities.
Stand-off pads guide
Your essential guide to planning, designing and managing stand-off pads.
Build it right (Technical information)
IPENZ Practice Note 29 Dairy Housing
Note: IPENZ Practice Note 27 - Farm Dairy Infrastructure (above) offers industry guidance in the design and construction of key farm dairy infrastructure components. The Feed Pads section can be downloaded separately here.
Managing off-paddock systems
Dairy Cow Housing Guide
A good practice guide for dairy housing in New Zealand.
Dairy Cow Housing Assessment
This assessment tool will help to identify any cow comfort issues that may impact on welfare and production.