Thursday, 06 June 2024 08:55

Cows 'prefer eating hay on pasture during winter'

Written by  Staff Reporters
Cows managed on pasture with hay also had higher skin temperatures and cleaner coats, according to the study. Cows managed on pasture with hay also had higher skin temperatures and cleaner coats, according to the study.

Dairy cows managed in winter on pasture, with hay bales, spent more time ruminating and lying in postures suggesting greater comfort than those on kale crops, newly published research has found.

Cows managed on pasture with hay also had higher skin temperatures and cleaner coats. The results suggest the greater opportunities for thermal comfort on pasture with hay may be due to both increased rumination activities and a more insulated lying area.

AgResearch scientists joined with colleagues from Massey University in carrying out the study on NZ dairy farms with 80 Friesian cross-bred (Friesian and Jersey), nonlactating and pregnant cows, in the winter of 2022.

The published research states: “In countries with pasture-based dairy systems and relatively cold winters, such as New Zealand, it is common to manage pregnant, nonlactating cows on forage crop paddocks rather than pasture due to slow pasture growth rates. Wintering dairy cattle on grazed crops can compromise welfare if wet and muddy underfoot conditions occur, which can reduce lying. This study investigated behavioural and physiological indicators of welfare of cows under 2 wintering practices: cows managed on and grazed kale crop, and cows managed on pasture with baled hay.”

AgResearch senior scientist Karin Schütz says the research was the first of its kind to show cows were warmer in a hay bale grazing system than forage crops.

“Our research has shown that bale grazing systems can provide cows with several welfare benefits and help them conserve energy and maintain normal body temperature,” Schütz says.

“The diet of pasture and hay promotes rumination throughout the day and night which helps with thermoregulation when the weather is cold. The hay litter left from the hay bales gives the cows an insulated and soft surface to lie down and rest on, which we know cows prefer.

Research into these different wintering systems has also demonstrated environmental benefits, in addition to those for the animals.

AgResearch senior scientist Ross Monaghan says environmental benefits observed in trials included greater opportunity to capture urinary nitrogen in the hay bale system, and therefore less nutrient loss, as well as less mud and soil damage.

The research into animal behaviour/welfare in different systems received funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) fund, and AgResearch.

For the full study, visit

More like this

Pamu pups do their bit for working dog project

More than 200 working dogs from Pamu farms around the country are the first to provide their DNA to Massey University for a project to protect the future of the New Zealand working dog breeds.

Innovation, probiotic deliver results

In 2018, faced with a Salmonella outbreak among his calves and the effects of the subsequent vaccination, Waikato dairy farmer Cole Townsend turned to social media for a solution.

The quest for quality

Pat and Shelley Schnuriger’s resolve to reduce their Holstein Friesian herd to 100 cows has proven its worth, with an exceptional percow production backing up their decision.


Donated tractors welcome news

When Cyclone Gabrielle hit in February 2023, it left an estimated $13.5 billion worth of damage across New Zealand.

More choice with new distribution deal

Having taken over from the previous distributor, who represented the brand for two decades, Landini New Zealand marks the beginning of a new distribution deal with Norwood, with a first look at Fieldays.


Machinery & Products

Delivering tried and tested brands

Operating for around a decade, Waringa Distribution thoroughly appraises and paddocktests machinery brands prior to market introduction and before assisting…

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Thanks Chuck!

OPINION: After six years of being passed over for every Arts luvvie in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, agriculture has finally…

Not biased

OPINION: Reactions to Budgets are always predictable, following well-worn tracks laid down by political tribalism and ideology.

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter