Animal management: Winter grazing and mud

Animals need careful management in winter. Find out about risks, requirements, and solutions, and about the Winter Grazing Action Group.

What animals need

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.

Lying down time

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. 

What you can do to avoid mud problems

Mud happens. But it can be managed. Some resources to help you are available online.

Wintering cows on crops – DairyNZ

Winter grazing – Beef + Lamb NZ

What we're doing

Refer to our programme – Safeguarding our Animals, Safeguarding our Reputation

Winter Grazing Action Group

The Winter Grazing Action Group, established in early 2020, is made up of 15 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 group has put together guidance for farmers. Short-term 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. The group says the practice changes are realistically achievable by spring 2021.

Short-term expected outcomes for animal welfare [PDF, 660 KB]

Terms of reference

You can find out more about the action group and its role in the Terms of reference.

Terms of Reference [PDF, 565 KB]

Meeting reports

Meeting summary and action – 4 March 2021 [PDF, 175 KB]

Meeting summary and action – 22 January 2021 [PDF, 202 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 18 November 2020 [PDF, 213 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 28 October 2020 [PDF, 225 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 22 September 2020 [PDF, 218 KB]

Meeting summary and actions - 1 September 2020 [PDF, 223 KB]

Meeting summary and actions - 28 July 2020 [PDF, 158 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 30 June 2020 [PDF, 185 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 16 June 2020 [PDF, 572 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 2 June 2020 [PDF, 578 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 19 May 2020 [PDF, 606 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 5 May 2020 [PDF, 698 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 21 April 2019 [PDF, 606 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 24 February 2020 [PDF, 589 KB]

Progress reports and media releases

Progress report – 8 March 2021 [PDF, 170 KB]

Media release: Good winter grazing practices urged as cold weather closes in

Media release: Make sure you have a grazing contract in time for winter

Winter Grazing Action Group announced – Government media release


Who to contact

If you have questions about winter grazing, email

Information about the Winter Grazing Taskforce

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Taskforce members and reports

On 7 August 2019, Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor announced he was establishing a taskforce to respond to the animal welfare issues associated with the practice of winter grazing.

On 18 August 2019, Minister O’Connor announced the 10 members of the taskforce. They are: 

  • Dr John Hellstrom, ONZM (Independent chairman)
  • Dr Arnja Dale, chief scientific adviser, SPCA
  • Dr Helen Beattie, chief veterinary officer, New Zealand Veterinary Association
  • Dr Stephen Hopkinson, dairy cattle vet and New Zealand Veterinary Association
  • Angus Robson, environment campaigner
  • Dr Ross Monaghan, senior scientist, AgResearch
  • Elaine Cook, DairyNZ
  • Dave Harrison, Beef+Lamb NZ
  • Ewen Mathieson, dairy farmer, Southland
  • Pania King, sheep and beef farmer, Gisborne.

The taskforce completed a stocktake of the multiple initiatives underway to promote good winter grazing practice and identified why these are not currently working for all. This was contained in the final report along with 11 recommendations to help ensure that animal welfare becomes part of all winter grazing decisions along the pastoral supply chain.

Government media releases about the taskforce

Agriculture Minister establishes winter grazing taskforce – Beehive

Agriculture Minister announces members of winter grazing taskforce – Beehive

Agriculture Minister: Changes recommended for winter grazing practices – Beehive

Terms of reference

You can find out more about the taskforce and its role in the Terms of reference.

Terms of Reference agreed on 23 August 2019 [PDF, 613 KB]

Approach summary [PDF, 136 KB]

Meetings and reports

Meeting summary and actions – 23 August 2019 [PDF, 787 KB]

Winter Grazing Taskforce first report [PDF, 404 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 5 September 2019 [PDF, 802 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 12 September 2019 [PDF, 784 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 27 September 2019 [PDF, 805 KB]

Draft meeting summary and actions – 2 and 3 October 2019 [PDF, 1 MB]

Letter to the Agriculture Minister that accompanied the final report from the Winter Grazing Taskforce – 5 November 2019 [PDF, 108 KB]

Final report and recommendations – released 25 November 2019 [PDF, 1.5 MB]


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