|dc.description.abstract||In New Zealand it is increasingly common practice for farmers to remove cows from pasture and crops for periods of the day, as a mitigation strategy to reduce nitrate leaching. There are no rules governing the type of ‘stand-off’ system used, and as a result farmers may select stand-off system based on cost. There is limited evidence from New Zealand regarding how different stand-off pad surfaces may impact on the welfare of dairy cows. An experiment was conducted in Canterbury, New Zealand between June and August 2017 to investigate the effects of different stand-off pad surface types on aspects of dairy cow welfare. One hundred and sixty multiparous, non-lactating, pregnant Friesian x Jersey cows were blocked and assigned to five treatments within a winter system. All treatment groups grazed fodder beet in situ following supplement feeding on a feed pad. The stand-off pad treatments were: no stand-off (control); stand off on a woodchip pad for 16 hr/day (woodchip); Stand-off on a stones for 16 h/day (stones); stand-off on sand for 16 h/day (sand) stand off on geotextile carpet for 16 h/day (carpet).
Welfare requirements for lameness and nutrition were met by all surface types, though some surfaces performed better than others with regards body condition score gain. The average hours lying per 24 hrs was greater than 8 hours for all surfaces except sand, however, there were cows in every group that did not achieve 8hrs or more each day. Surface type had an effect on average lying time (P<0.05) and lying bouts (P<0.001), with stones having significantly higher lying hours and fewer lying bouts in 24hrs, than other surfaces. There was also an interaction between time and surface type (P=<0.001); lying hours increased from week one to week four for most surfaces. Surface type had a significant effect on hygiene scores, with the stones group being the cleanest (1.04) and sand being the dirtiest (1.66; P=0.02), and an interaction between time and hygiene score for cows on sand, where cows got dirtier with each week on the pad (P=<0.001). Although all groups gained body condition score during the experiment, final and change in body condition score were significantly different between surface groups (P<0.001 and P<0.005, respectively) and the stones and carpet groups gained significantly more than the other groups. There was no effect of surface on lameness scores or live weight. Taken together, our results indicate that adaptation to a new environment for lying may take several weeks, and that most surface types have both positive and negative effects on cow welfare and need to be managed to minimise those negative effects.
While our results indicated an effect of surface type on certain aspects of cow health and welfare during winter, a longer study, covering the whole winter season, would be required to confirm these results.||en