All cows should live in a suitable and comfortable environment. A cow’s home affects how they feel, think and behave. Providing your cow with shelter and a comfortable resting area is one way you can make sure that your cow stays healthy and happy.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Environment. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your cows have the right environment, shelter, bedding, etc. they need for positive welfare.
Cows can grow very large and need a lot of space. Cows spend a lot of time grazing and eating grass and other forms of pasture this means they will require a lot of paddock area to be able to do this. Another thing to remember is that your paddock/grass area will need time to grow back, after being grazed down by your cow(s).
This is called rotating your paddocks. When your cow has eaten the majority of your pasture in one area, ideally you should have another paddock available where your cow can graze in another area (this is also helpful for avoiding large numbers of internal parasites).
Cows are not happy (or healthy) if they are kept in one small area all the time, as it can become muddy and dirty. You should make sure you have enough land available for your cow before you bring her home.
Grazing is a big part of cow behaviour so you need to make sure your cow always has access to nice, fresh pasture to eat. There are some tips for how to make your grass grow back faster and tastier in our Nutrition section.
We all know New Zealand weather can be a bit crazy – four seasons in one day. Sometimes the sun is out and it is really hot, other times it is very cold and can snow. Cows notice the change in weather too, so your cow will need some form of shelter for protection from the hot sun, rain and wind. Cows can cope with changes in temperature, however, when the weather is too hot, this can make your cow very uncomfortable.
If your cow becomes too hot or too cold, they can become ill. This is why it is very important to make sure your cow is protected from the heat and cold. In addition, different breeds of cows can be more or less sensitive to these environmental fluctuations as well.
Shelter for your cow should be appropriate so that it stays warm and dry during the cold winter months and shady and cool during the hot summer months. Shelter for your cow can be made from:
Cows are very strong (and curious) animals so you will need a strong sturdy fence to keep them safe from wandering into areas they shouldn’t be, or grazing areas they shouldn’t (like the neighbour's crops).
Checking your fencing for such things as missing or broken fencing batons is important to ensure your cow stays where she is supposed to be and to protect her from injuring herself on broken fencing.
Cows need somewhere warm, ventilated and comfortable to rest, like a weather proof stall. Bedding should be comfortable, and also somewhere which can be cleaned out regularly as well, if inside.
The suitable material to use for your cow's bedding include: