As mid-winter sets in, farm teams across New Zealand are working hard to keep cows dry, comfortable and well fed.

Southland dairy, sheep and beef farmer Dean Rabbidge faced a challenging autumn as drought struck, but responded by bringing in extra winter feed.    

The farm team have talked through when to move stock to keep them comfortable in adverse weather. They plan to move them under trees and feed baleage.

“This will give them somewhere dry, sheltered and warm to lie down.”

West Coast dairy farmers Dan and Kate King are applying lessons learnt last year to keep improving animal care.

“Last winter went relatively well but constant rainfall over calving led to pasture damage and pressure on feed and supplements. So, we’ve been planning ahead in case we get lots of rain this winter,” says Dan.

The Kings have ordered in around 270 bales of meadow hay to supplement their winter crops. They’ve also made 200 bales of baleage to feed out when needed over the coming year.  

“Having extra feed puts us in a strong position to cope with any adverse conditions, and keep cows in good condition,” says Dan.

The Kings use back fencing and portable water troughs so cows don’t need to move far for feed and water. This reduces mud, creating a better environment for cows and reducing sediment loss into waterways.

The Kings are also planting 140 trees this year to provide more shelter for cows.   

DairyNZ’s head of the South Island, Tony Finch, says farmers have been working hard to plan ahead and improve wintering practices – with around 90 percent of farmers developing a contingency plan last winter to protect animals in bad weather.

For advice on wintering well, visit www.dairynz.co.nz/wintering