All dairy farmers know that standing off cows from pasture protects your pasture and promotes future pasture growth as pasture production and quality is mainly affected by grazing intensity.
Standing off cows also reduces leaching, and has a major impact on milk solids production as it not only determines how much energy there is per kg DM eaten, but it also drives cow intake. The impact on milk production is dependent on the loss in pasture growth if cows are not stood off.
Grazing experiments have also demonstrated that offering too much pasture is as bad as offering too little, and ‘fully feeding’ a cow on pasture comes at a cost.
Just as important as protecting your pasture by investing in stand-off areas for your herd, is the need to ensure appropriate surfacing for this area. Rubber matting makes an excellent feed-pad surface. Not only does it replicate the feel of real pasture, but it also ensures underfoot grip, making cows more comfortable and confident.
Here are the two signs you need to invest in rubber surfacing for your feed-pad:
1) Your cows are suffering from lameness.
It’s now becoming more recognised that using a concrete floor feedlot creates a number of problems with cow lameness, agitation and stress, meaning the potential benefits of investing in a feedlot are offset by cow welfare problems and reduced milk production.
The surface type used during stand-off will determine the length of time you can hold the cows. Harder surfaces like concrete used for long periods of time cause all of the preventable lameness and behaviour issues while also affecting your production. You’ll also spend longer cleaning up afterwards and run a greater risk of disease.
2) You have a high incidence of mastitis.
You have a high incidence of mastitis. Mastitis can be a problem during standing off. Mastitis-causing bacteria grow best in wet, dirty and warm environments. As concrete is porous and harder to clean than rubber, there is a greater risk of the conditions for bacterial growth to present themselves. Fortunately, reducing the amount of mud is something we do have control over through opting for rubber matting surfacing in stand-off pads.
The benefits of rubber surfacing on feed pads
Cows will lie down sooner on softer surfaces, and while they need to lie down for 8 hours a day, they prefer to lie down for 11 hours per day. If lying is restricted they will do this in preference to grazing, resulting in underfeeding. Installing rubber surfacing not only gives your cows the rest they need, helping them to produce more milk, it also helps you by:
- Decreasing the risk of falls and injury, reducing lameness and hoof wear
- Saving you in time and maintenance costs
- Saving you water usage
- Saving your pasture