Feed pads - A Quick Rundown

Feed pads are a place for the supplementary feeding of a dairy herd. Some farmers use them as a way of upping the amount or quality of milk produced. Another reason to use a feed pad is to strategically avoid unnecessary damage to tracks or pastures. Feed pads are not designed to hold cows for long periods so they’re not to be confused with other off pasture feeding options; they can form a part of them, however. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to consider to ensure you get the most out of a feed pad.

Before you begin, a few things to consider:

  • How will you use the pad?
  • How will this affect your current pasture management?
  • What adjustments will you make to maximise pasture management efficiency?
  • How will the feed pad affect profitability?
  • How do you intend to manage animal welfare and health on the pad?
  • Are you changing your farm to a higher input feeding system? Will this require more staff?
  • How will you manage an increase in stormwater and effluent created by running a feed pad?

What makes a good feed pad?

  • Well thought out location on your farm
  • Durable concrete slab that can withstand acidic and corrosive conditions
  • Safe, easy access for the cows
  • Not too rough, not too slippery
  • Big enough for the number of cows using it
  • Enough working room for farm staff
  • Enough working room for farm equipment
  • Feed storage that easily accessible
  • An efficient feedout system
  • Good access to a water supply
  • Effluent management system designed and built in
  • FDE (farm dairy effluent) containment
  • Stormwater management
  • Shelter
  • Meets your regional council’s rules and regs

Other off-pasture options

Feed pads aren’t the only option when it comes to pasture management and the supplementary feeding of dairy herds.

Loafing pad/Stand-off pad

An uncovered area made of free-draining material such as bark, wood chips, sand, or sawdust on a sealed surface with drainage and an effluent storage facility. Stand-off pads can hold cows for much longer periods than a feed pad alone but you do need to allow about 8-10m2 lying down room per cow.

Self–feed pad

As above, cows can be held off pasture and in a self-feed area for extended periods. Supplementary feed is given on a hard uncovered pad with a soft stand-off area to the side for lying down. A herd can spend several months on a self-feed pad.

Animal shelter

Although covered, animal shelters aren’t long-term solutions like the two above as there is nowhere for the cows to lie down. They are designed to be a place to give supplementary feed out of the elements. Pad surfaces can either be concrete slatted floor with an effluent storage bunker or free-draining carbon material.

Wintering barn

Covered and enclosed, wintering sheds like a Dairy Barn System can hold herds for extended periods of time and have supplementary feeds brought to them. They are commonly constructed with a concrete floor and softer surface areas (eg. lined with rubber mats) designated for lying down.