How much time should dairy cows spend outside?

While dairy cows usually spend at least some of the time out of doors, the amount of time this is varies greatly depending on the farm, and the cow, in question.

There are a number of reasons for this. On the one hand, keeping them indoors can sometimes be beneficial, as it shields them from bad weather and allows the farmer greater control over their diet. On the other hand, one reason to keep them indoors is simply to increase yields.

How much should cows spend outside, and how can farmers reassure consumers that they are allowing their livestock to enjoy pasture?

Why are cows kept indoors?

Cows must be kept indoors for a certain amount of time each year, although this amount of time is not set in stone. The reasons that they need to go inside are to boost yield for the farmers, and look after the health of the cow.

Diet is also key, and grass is not always adequate. “Although grass may look the same when you’re looking over the hedge, the reality is the quality of the nutrition in the grass is variable at different times of the year, so that can have an influence,” Paul Tompkins, diary board chair at the UK’s National Farmers’ Union, told FoodNavigator.

“Modern high-yielding dairy cows have been bred to produce very large volumes of milk – meaning they have very high energy requirements. Therefore they need additional, concentrated feed. That’s a key argument for keeping them indoors – to control diet and in turn production and body condition,” a spokesperson for the organisation Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) added.