Winter grazing and mud

Animals need careful management in winter. Find out about risks, requirements, and solutions, and about the Winter Grazing Taskforce.

What animals need

New Zealand's codes of animal welfare generally require that:

  • livestock have access to areas that are free of surface water and mud
  • animals have protection from adverse weather (like storms)
  • livestock are able to lie down and rest comfortably for sufficient periods to meet their behavioural needs.

Managing crop feeding

The two main risks with winter cropping are that:

  • animals can get sick from changing their diet from pasture to crops too quickly
  • paddocks can quickly get muddy during long wet periods.

These problems can quickly become welfare concerns.

Lying down time

Livestock animals need to lie down for rest and digestion. They won’t lie on very wet ground, which can lead to poor health and poor welfare. 

What you can do to avoid mud problems

Mud happens. But it can be managed. Some resources to help you are available online.

Wintering cows on crops – DairyNZ

Winter grazing – Beef + Lamb NZ

What we're doing

Refer to our programme – Safeguarding our Animals, Safeguarding our Reputation

Winter Grazing Taskforce

On 7 August 2019, Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor announced he was establishing a taskforce to respond to the animal welfare issues associated with the practice of winter grazing.

On 18 August 2019, Minister O’Connor announced the 10 members of the taskforce. They are: 

  • Dr John Hellstrom, ONZM (Independent chairman)
  • Dr Arnja Dale, chief scientific adviser, SPCA
  • Dr Helen Beattie, chief veterinary officer, New Zealand Veterinary Association
  • Dr Stephen Hopkinson, dairy cattle vet and New Zealand Veterinary Association
  • Angus Robson, environment campaigner
  • Dr Ross Monaghan, senior scientist, AgResearch
  • Elaine Cook, DairyNZ
  • Dave Harrison, Beef+Lamb NZ
  • Ewen Mathieson, dairy farmer, Southland
  • Pania King, sheep and beef farmer, Gisborne.

The taskforce completed a stocktake of the multiple initiatives underway to promote good winter grazing practice and identified why these are not currently working for all. This was contained in the final report along with 11 recommendations to help ensure that animal welfare becomes part of all winter grazing decisions along the pastoral supply chain.

Government media releases about the taskforce

Agriculture Minister establishes winter grazing taskforce – Beehive

Agriculture Minister announces members of winter grazing taskforce – Beehive

Agriculture Minister: Changes recommended for winter grazing practices – Beehive

Terms of reference

You can find out more about the taskforce and its role in the Terms of reference.

Terms of Reference agreed on 23 August 2019 [PDF, 613 KB]

Approach summary [PDF, 136 KB]

Meetings and reports

Meeting summary and actions – 23 August 2019 [PDF, 787 KB]

Winter Grazing Taskforce first report [PDF, 404 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 5 September 2019 [PDF, 802 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 12 September 2019 [PDF, 784 KB]

Meeting summary and actions – 27 September 2019 [PDF, 805 KB]

Draft meeting summary and actions – 2 and 3 October 2019 [PDF, 1 MB]

Letter to the Agriculture Minister that accompanied the final report from the Winter Grazing Taskforce – 5 November 2019 [PDF, 108 KB]

Final report and recommendations – released 25 November 2019 [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Who to contact

If you have questions about winter grazing, email

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