Loafing (or lounging) areas are usually close to the feed pad and dairy

Loafing areas provide a place for cows to ruminate and rest following feeding. They can be used to “stand off” cows from pasture during wet conditions; reducing pasture pugging and resulting in more grass in spring. They can also help you maintain higher stocking rates.

Consider the following before you finalise your design:

  • Frequency of use – the more you plan to use this area, the softer the surface and the larger the area has to be
  • Surface type – cows like soft and dry surfaces that are not slippery – see the table below
  • Area per cow –a minimum of 3 m2 per cow is recommended so cows can lie down comfortably
  • Time on the pad – softer surfaces are best for longer periods, hard surfaces make cows reluctant to lie down
  • Design of the base – good drainage is essential
  • Effluent disposal – all effluent and run off from this area needs to be captured. Can your existing system handle it?

No matter what surface you use, consider drainage and effluent capture

Comparison of surfaces for loafing and stand-off areas

SurfaceBenefitFactor to considerManagement tip
ConcreteDurable, easy to cleanCows prefer not to lie on concrete, risk of hoof damage, can be slipperyCould use rubber matting to soften surface
WoodchipsWarm, free draining, cows lie down sooner, low chance of slipping, reduced stress and lamenessAvailability of wood chips, may need to change frequentlySoiled woodchips can be composted or incorporated into ploughed soils
SandEasy to clean, cheap if locally availableCold when wet so cows reluctant to sit, standing on sand for prolonged periods can wear hoovesNecessary to skim off top layer twice per season
Sacrifice paddockNo capital outlay, good for short periodsLoss of grazing area, if it gets too muddy cows won’t sit. If visible from road, could cause public perception problemsAvoid paddocks near waterways or roads, choose a paddock earmarked for renovation
Gravel lanewayLow capital outlay, cows can be kept near the dairyCan degrade lane for future use, cows won’t lie, muddyChoose laneways with good drainage to capture and divert effluent
CropRetains soil fertility, low capital outlay, less moving of stockCan lead to soil compaction, gets muddy quickly, can’t capture effluentFeed a longer break so cows can lie on crop rather than mud.
Source: Moran & McDonald, 2010