New Zealand dairy cows have typically been grazed on pasture all year round, however intensification of milk production systems has led to increased nitrogen loss into the environment (de Klein & Ledgard 2001; Luo et al. 2007). Limiting the amount of time that cows have access to pasture, particulalry during inclement weather, by the use of feed pads or cow housing for parts of the season or day (de Klein 2001), can reduce nitrogen loss into waterways (Christensen et al. 2012). This approch is particularly important in protecting the soil and pasture from treading damage (Arnold 2009) and can allow non-lactating cows to be retained on the dairy unit over the winter or animals to be sheltered from excessive rain, cold and sunshine. Unfortunately, many New Zealand dairy farmers and the majority of cows have little or no experience of cow housing.
This experiment was completed to assess the acceptance and use of differing free stall bed types by adult dairy cows, with no previous experience of housing, and to compare this with cows kept at pasture. The evening and nightly, daytime grazing and overall daily behaviour patterns of these cows are reported and discussed in this brief comunication.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 73, Hamilton, 186-188, 2013
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