Authors: Tom Davidson & Jeff Andrews
Many sections of the Australian and New Zealand dairy industries have pushed production per cow to a level which can not easily be obtained from pasture alone or even from pasture plus concentrates fed in the dairy.
Many dairy farms now feed some form of supplementary forage for all or part of the year. Then such feeds are used regularly, some type offorage feeding facility or feed pad is often more convenient. However feed pads can congregate large numbers of animals on to small areas thus creating potential environmental, animal health and animal welfare problems.
Textbooks on dairy feed pad design for Australian, New Zealand, and southern hemisphere conditions still remain to be written.
Much can be learned from the US and European industries, but not all can be applied directly because of different farming systems, cost and availability of materials, employment conditions, and labour rates.Why have a feed pad?
Reduce feed wastageSilage, hay, grain and byproducts are all expensive materials and it is common to waste up to 23% of such material when feeding along fence lines or straight onto a pasture. These materials can cost up to $180 per tonne dry matter so cows consuming 2 tonne of such dry matter per year would waste 460 kg per year or $83 per cow or $8300 for a 100 cow herd.
A good feed pad will reduce the wastage to less than 5% or under $1800 (Moran 1996). If the cows had eaten this wasted material, the 100 cows could have each produced 430 L per year extra milk (1.4 L/day), or conversely saved 36 tonnes of dry matter - enough to feed the herd for another 50 days.Reduce mastitis, hoof and leg problems Concentrating cows together for extended periods on poorly set-up feedpads usually leads to a build-up of manure mixed with mud. Such conditions are ideal for the growth of pathogenic bacteria and several mastitis pathogens (particularly Strep uberis) can be expected in large numbers. During extended periods of dry weather, the risk of infection seems low but during, and after, rain the infection risk is higher, particularly if the cows lounge in mud and manure.
Standing in mud usually softens cows hooves leading to increases in foot-rot and associated problems, particularly if stones are present to cause bruising. Good feed pad design is aimed at minimising such problems.Minimise heat loads A prime reason for the construction of many covered feed pads in Australia will be to minimise heat stress. Davison et al (1996) have demonstrated the possible gains in feed intake, milk yield, milk composition and reproduction which can be obtained through minimising heat loads. Losses in milk yield of $10 000 to $40 000 are common in our hotter areas and larger herds with higher production per cow will lose the most by not protecting their cows. Protect the environment Feed pads congregate large numbers of animals on to small areas, creating potential environmental problems. Earth or gravel areas around feed troughs always contain large amounts of manure and are high-risk areas for pollution of both surface and ground water. Good feed pad design will contain all potential pollution sources and present an attractive appearance to help maintain the clean, green image of dairy products.
Feedpads Downunder booklet 3.5 mb