One shot at wintering right

Farmers have been warned that they will be scrutinised this winter over grazing situations where cows are standing in mud for long periods of time. Karen Trebilcock reports.

Farmers at a wintering field day at Telford in South Otago in early May work on a written wintering plan for the swede paddock.

Environment capability manager Beef + Lamb New Zealand Tom Orchiston told farmers at a joint B+LNZ and DairyNZ field day at Telford in early May this winter was the one shot they had to get wintering right.

“Everyone is looking at us this winter and we’ve got to show them we’ve got this.

“We have to show them we don’t need rules and regulations and dates where we must have things done by. We can achieve successful wintering without them.”

He said all winter grazing, whether on grass or crop, was considered as intensive winter grazing and farmers had to do the best they could at minimising the effects of it on the environment and on their animals.

“Yes, you will have bad weather, yes, you will have unexpected events and things you have not planned for, but do the best you can do every day,” he said.

Making it easy to lie down

Young cows, cows with lower body condition scores and cows which have early calving dates are less likely to achieve the minimum of eight hours lying time per day during winter.

In a trial, called “How Much Mud is Too Much Mud” at the Southern Dairy Hub last winter, 21% of the cows consistently had less than eight hours lying time per day on fodder beet and kale crops.DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley said she didn’t know whether older cows made sure they got enough lying time because, like people, they had more aches and pains, or because they were dominant in the pecking order.

“It could be that the bossy cows are taking the best lying spots in a paddock,” she said.

Past research, both in New Zealand and overseas, shows cows prioritise lying over eating and if cows did not have enough rest their body condition was adversely affected.

Behavioural monitoring equipment (CowManager tags and HOBO accelerometers) were fitted to 30 cows in four mobs on kale and fodder beet for the five-week trial.

“It’s important to make sure there are enough dry areas in a winter crop paddock break to make sure all of the cows can lie down,” she said.


  • Use buffer zones to protect critical source areas, such as swales, and waterways from sediment and nutrient runoff
  • Use back-fencing and portable troughs to limit cows damaging soils on ground already grazed
  • Graze down slopes so uneaten crop forms a barrier for sediment and nutrient runoff to critical source areas
  • Write your wintering plan down and share it with your farm team so it is followed
  • Have an adverse weather plan so when bad weather hits there is shelter and dry areas for animals to lie down while still having access to feed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

To ask for help for your own wintering paddock or if you are concerned about someone else’s, ring 0800 FARMING 0800 327 646. The number is answered by Federated Farmers staff.