Cows being able to sit on biodegradable mats instead of mud will be trialled in a bid to improve their health during winter grazing.
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JOHN HAWKINS/STUFF DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley speaking at a farmers forum held at the Southern Dairy Hub near Wallacetown

Southern Dairy Hub staff with the help of scientists, engineers and rural professionals have teamed up to create concepts on how to improve the farm facilities for winter grazing.

Winter grazing techniques were put under the spotlight last year after a nationwide anti-grazing campaign highlighted some Southland cows standing in mud, and prompted the agricultural minister Damian O’Connor to set up a taskforce in response.

During a farmer’s forum on Tuesday near Wallacetown, Southern Dairy Hub’s current winter cropping study and plans to trial infrastructure better suited for winter farming in the South Island were discussed.

A system of biodegradable mats along a farms laneway could be one of the solutions to improve cow’s health during winter grazing.

Initial concepts include the use of a matting system that could be placed on the farm’s laneways, offering a place for cows to rest comfortably, or roofless cubicle barns, similar to what is used on farms in Ireland.

After the forum, DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley said farmers were looking for better infrastructure that would improve animal welfare whilst being cost effective during the winter season.

For the matting system to be cost effective it was likely it would need to incorporate existing resources, such as laneways, Dalley said.

The system had to flexible enough that farmers could implement it in stages, she said.

There was working being done on finding alternative bedding materials, such as the use of wool instead of saw dust, material that could last several years and was biodegradable, she said.

The trail was expected to started in the winter of 2021 at the earliest.

Further workshops on winter grazing will be held by DairyNZ and Beef and Lamb with support from Environment Southland and Otago Regional Council throughout Southland and south Otago from March 25 to April 9.

With the future uncertain, Maine must show its support.

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