This article was written for New Farm Dairies by SunMedia Ltd. 

A covered feed pad/standing area saves a marathon trek for cows on a Northland dairy farm.

Instead of hiking up to three hours-a-day from the most distant paddocks, to and from the milking shed, the Crawford farm herd at Tangowahine near Dargaville can shelter from the elements while being fed and watered in a ‘Smart Shelter’.

David and Brenda Crawford converted to dairy in 2009, running a 400ha ‘home farm’ and a 100ha run-off – over three blocks – with the herd size jumping from 280 in the first season to 560 in 2020 through the addition of two neighbouring farms.

Milking year-round, they have separate autumn and spring herds – mostly Friesian, with some cross-bred and Ayrshires adding to the mix.

The catalyst for the feed pad was a project Brenda undertook for her agribusiness ITO diploma.

In her report, Brenda says winters in the area can be extremely wet “which can result in sore feet for the cows from having to walk off the hills to and from the cowshed”.

The farm has also experienced “extremely dry” summers in recent years and is subject to south westerly winds.

feed pad design nz

Dry spell

“During the summer months this area can be particularly dry – the flats and the hills – making pasture growth difficult to nonexistent,” says Brenda.

David says they talked about making the feed pad become a reality, with construction undertaken towards the end of last year.

The farm had an existing 16m by 70m concrete pad, but he says this was uncovered, with no surface matting, and wasn’t being utilised to the maximum without cover.

The pad has been extended to 25m by 70m, capable of holding 280 cows.

Water and feed troughs are incorporated in the design, with the cows’ diet including grass silage, maize, kumara and PKE.

“Putting in the feed pad enabled us to feed the cows extra feed without damaging the pasture and soil, and it gives us flexibility,” says Brenda.

It has also been estimated that cows using the feed pad during summer produce an extra four litres of milk per day each when not facing a marathon walk to the milking shed. “It pays for itself,” says David.

He recommends the feed pad “one hundred per cent”. “It’s cheaper than having a run-off, there’s no waste of feed and everything is central.”

Cows remain on the feed pad after morning milking, heading out to pasture in the evening.

David says keeping cows on feed pads for longer is becoming more common in dairying. “You protect pasture, and production is already increasing.”

An added bonus is rainwater from the roof of the feed pad goes back into the farm system. “We get about 1.4 million litres a year of good water,” says David.

The pad was built by Dargaville-based Vuletich Construction. Director John Vuletich says the work was undertaken just before Christmas in 2019.

Around 550 square metres of concrete was used in the project, taking advantage of the existing smaller pad, and included 80 cubic metres of concrete in the floor.


Rubber studs underneath the material provide a cushioning effect. It is laid in interlocking squares – “like a big jigsaw puzzle” – which Anthony says allows the material to expand and contract during changes in outside temperature.

He says the matting is secured to the concrete base by a stainless steel anchoring system.

Numat also previously supplied and laid matting in the Crawford dairy shed.

Anthony says the Legend product that was used, was made in Canada. “It was laid in the yard and bails, once again aimed at cow comfort and preventing slipping on the concrete surface.

“It’s also about cow flow,” says Anthony. “Cows move better on rubber.”

He says the Legend material has more grip than that used on the feed pad.

Similarly, it is laid in interlocking squares in the dairy shed using the same fastening system as that used in the standing area. David says matting, already used in the cowshed, was always “part of the plan” for the feed pad. “Walking or standing on concrete can be brutal on cows.”

Brenda says the matting is also easy to keep clean. The pad is washed down using recycled green water from the cowshed, housed in three 25,000 litre floodwash tanks.

“The gravity-fed system operates for two minutes per wash on a timer, with material going into the farm effluent pond.”

Source: New Farm Dairies 2020

Contact the SmartShelters team today to discuss your feed pad options.

cattle feed pad design