New Zealand's codes of animal welfare generally require that:
- livestock have access to areas that are free of surface water and mud
- animals have protection from adverse weather (like storms)
- livestock are able to lie down and rest comfortably for sufficient periods to meet their behavioural needs.
Managing crop feeding
The two main risks with winter cropping are that:
- animals can get sick from changing their diet from pasture to crops too quickly
- paddocks can quickly get muddy during long wet periods.
These problems can quickly become welfare concerns.
Livestock animals need to lie down for rest and digestion. They won’t lie on very wet ground, which can lead to poor health and poor welfare.
Mud happens. But it can be managed. Some resources to help you are available online.
The Winter Grazing Action Group, established in early 2020, is made up of 16 representatives from industry organisations, government, vets, farmers, and other rural professionals. It's tasked with implementing recommendations to improve animal welfare in winter grazing systems.
The establishment of the group follows the final report by the Winter Grazing Taskforce.
Guidance for animal welfare on winter grazing
The action group has been working on the recommendations from the taskforce. This includes developing resources and supporting research in this area.
The group has put together guidance for farmers. The guidance document Expected outcomes for animal welfare:
- will help farmers understand what they’re doing well
- highlights where improvements can be made
- offers advice around planning during the year
- has some important winter grazing management practices.
Following the guidance will be good for the animals' welfare.
Expected outcomes for animal welfare [PDF, 4.5 MB]
The group has also supported development of resources and research to boost the knowledge around winter grazing. These include scenario maps and a literature review of health and welfare issues for sheep, deer and beef cattle managed in muddy conditions [PDF, 475 KB]
Your role in winter grazing
Winter grazing management is complex and involves many people – not just farmers. We've prepared guidance on the actions everyone can take to help improve animal welfare in winter grazing systems.
Winter grazing system scenario maps
Scenario maps around winter grazing systems for deer, sheep and beef, and dairy cattle help support timings around decision-making. The maps are not intended as an exhaustive list of actions. However, they help show that wintering is a complex, year-round process with different people making interconnected decisions.
Sheep and beef scenario map [PDF, 185 KB]
Deer finishing scenario map [PDF, 154 KB]
Dairy off-farm grazing scenario map [PDF, 158 KB]
Dairy on-farm grazing scenario map [PDF, 136 KB]
These resources are intended as guidance for all parts of the supply chain for winter grazing.
Other advice on winter grazing
More advice around planning for winter grazing is available through the intensive winter grazing module, your levy organisation, or your farm consultant.
Intensive winter grazing module [PDF, 4.4 MB]
Identifying research priorities
This report summarises the science research needs, including identifying research priorities for dairy cattle, beef cattle, and sheep and deer. The priorities were identified by reviewing current scientific literature and obtaining feedback from animal welfare scientists, industry representatives, and farmers. Note that any research needs to include an element on how the findings could be applied practically to improve welfare in winter grazing systems.