Off-Paddock Wintering Facilities


2 min read

Project aims What’s been happening What's next

Dairy farmers, particularly in the southern South Island, are seeking innovative off-paddock wintering options as an alternative to forage crop grazing. A team have been researching alternative loafing surfaces for cows that are both comfortable and cost-effective and can be incorporated into existing wintering infrastructure designs. Surfaces like rubber matting, pour-in-place surfaces, and loose fill bedding have been studied. This initiative is a joint effort between southern farmers, DairyNZ, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Southern Dairy Hub.

Project aims

Off-paddock Wintering Facilities and Systems for Southern Dairying aims to investigate off-paddock wintering alternatives to forage crop grazing that are affordable to establish and operate and provide an innovative, sustainable solution to cow welfare, working conditions and environmental impacts.

The investigations to date have included identifying and testing new alternative loafing surfaces that support cow comfort and are practical to use.

The surface options that fit this category include:

  • Rubber matting
  • Pour-in-place surfaces

Project status updates are below:

Let’s look at what’s been happening…

2020: Comprehensive scan for alternative cow loafing surfaces

A thorough scan was conducted for alternative products that could be used as cow loafing surfaces. We gathered information on products used by other dairy industries, and in the civil engineering, and sports surface industries.

2021: Design testing (calan barn)

Four loafing surfaces were evaluated under controlled conditions (inside a barn) for their ability to provide a sustainable option for:

  • Cow comfort (lying time)
  • Cleanability
  • Non-slip (traction)

Using a Clegg hammer on a novel loafing surface.

2022: Design testing (Southland winter conditions)

In the winter of 2022, we partnered with a dairy farmer in Southland to test the selected surfaces in real-life farm conditions to determine their fit in an existing infrastructure design.

The three surfaces were:

  • Shredded rubber pour-in-place with an overlay of durable geotextile (cow carpet)
  • Rubber-plastic pelletised pour-in-place with an overlay of durable geotextile (cow carpet)
  • Rubber tiles.

Despite some success in research phases, the recycled rubber/plastic/resin cow-lying surfaces tested were found to either have implementation issues or not be cost-effective to use.

2023: Construction planning

In 2023, work was undertaken to explore various designs and finalise a concept that was fit-for-purpose and realistically priced.

Originally, the build concept was to be a low-cost and affordable wintering infrastructure. Based on farmer feedback, the structure concept was revised to be ‘multifunctional’ to support farm system and component research and demonstration at the Southern Dairy Hub (SDH).

The concept was planned as a standalone research and demonstration facility with its own supporting infrastructure. This included an effluent system, the capacity to test two loafing surfaces, and cow and tractor lanes. The project team sought additional funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Food and Fibre Fund, and DairyNZ.

2024: Funding update

The plan to build a new wintering infrastructure at the Southern Dairy Hub hasn’t received funding support to progress at this stage.

The design of a fully covered structure to trial different wintering surfaces was enhanced from the original concept, with input from southern farmers. This changed design, alongside construction cost increases, meant the infrastructure build cost was significantly higher than the amount the Ministry for Primary Industries and DairyNZ agreed to as funders in 2021.

Research undertaken throughout the project has helped improve understanding of the performance and practicality of different wintering surface options. It has also provided valuable insights into best practice wintering infrastructure design and build processes. A summary of these learnings will be prepared, to guide farmers on key factors to consider when looking at constructing different wintering surface and infrastructure options.

What's next

DairyNZ researchers continue to work with the Southern Dairy Hub and project funders to explore opportunities for continued wintering research that build on the knowledge gained from research to date. DairyNZ also continues to support southern farmers to meet wintering challenges. This work includes providing practical tools, advocacy and on-the-ground advice.

This project is a collaboration with southern farmers, the Southern Dairy Hub and DairyNZ, in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures.

The project team appreciates the support of southern farmers and the Southern Demonstration and Research Farm at the Southern Dairy Hub (SDH) with investigations and research undertaken to date.

Last updated: Aug 2023
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