Shelter requirements for farm animals

Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, animals need shelter to be protected from weather-related problems that could affect their health. Find out about the requirements, what you can do, and read related research.

Protect livestock from heat and cold

Livestock mainly need to be safe from heat stress and cold stress. They should also be protected from extreme weather changes, like storms. This is a requirement under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Deciding how much shade and shelter is suitable for your animals is complex. Animals adapt to their environment and will have different needs at different times of the year.

Owners and people in charge of animals need to provide shelter and protection.

Find out more

Codes of welfare

Animal Welfare Act 1999 – New Zealand Legislation

Types of livestock shelter

Shade and shelter include more than just trees. It can also be natural features of the land (like gullies and hills), shade cloth, or barns and buildings.

As well as permanent shelter, farmers can use short-term solutions to protect animals from heat and cold stress. For example:

  • extra feed helps animals keep warm in winter
  • shearing sheep with a cover comb can help them manage in very hot or cold weather
  • more water can help animals keep cool in summer (for example, in the yard and at races)
  • sprinklers can help reduce heat stress
  • altering farm management practices such as mustering and milking times to reduce heat stress.

Find out more

Benefits of shelter and shade for sheep and cattle – Beef+Lamb NZ [PDF, 2.7 MB] 

Managing heat stress in dairy cattle – DairyNZ

Tree planting resources for dairy farms – DairyNZ

A video about trees for shade and shelter – Farm Forestry New Zealand

Research on shelter

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) commissioned research to find out what prevents farmers from providing enough shelter for their pastoral farm animals. The research found that the main barriers were:

  • time
  • costs and resources
  • the effect shelter could have on farm productivity
  • how much information about shelters was available.

Shelter is part of good farming and the research found that while some farmers thought their shelter could be better, they had other, more urgent demands on their time and resources.

The research report and summary

Expectations of pastoral animal shelter among farmers, stakeholders and the general public [PDF, 3.2 MB] 

Summary report: Barriers to the adoption of animal welfare standards – shelter on pastoral farms [PDF, 313 KB]

Note, the summary is a paper published in the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 2019 conference proceedings.

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