The announcement of a three and a half year study on options for wintering dairy cows in Southland is welcome news.
DairyNZ regional scientist Dr Dawn Dalley said the aim was to measure all parts of the wintering systems, including the impact on feed supply, animal health, finances, and staff, as well as environmental monitoring.
“We want to look at a whole-farm system analysis and get a comprehensive data set on wintering systems.”
The goal was to produce “good robust data” so farmers considering a wintering system could make an informed decision.
. . . “What we’re not trying to do is say one system is better than the other.
“It’s more about if you’re choosing a system, these are the things you need to be thinking about and to get right to implement successfully.”
This study will provide facts which will help determine what is best for cows, staff and the environment and that could help counter some of the ill-informed criticism of the industry.
Plans to house cows indoors in the Mackenzie basins were opposed for a variety of grounds including animal welfare, environmental degredation and the impact on tourism.
Almost all of the opposition was on emotive rather than factual grounds.
New Zealand is a world leader at converting grass to protein in the most efficient way – by feeding stock on pastures. But that doesn’t mean that everyone here has to do it that way.
The ODT featured Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen who farm at Morven in South Canterbury. They’ve invested $4.5 million in a European-style barn housing 500 cows which are milked by six computer computerised robotic milking machines. One of the features of the barn is back scratchers for the cattle.
It may not be farming as we know it but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Farmers in Southland have been moving to housing cows indoors over winter for the sake of the cows and to safeguard pastures and soil. But they’ve been criticised for doing this because it’s “not natural”.
The study won’t prove housing is natural but it will provide scientific data on which comparisons between various options for wintering cows can be made.