Housing of dairy cows

Open-ended housing 1100 x 480

Dairy breeds in South Africa originated in the British Isles and Western Europe. These countries have a cool to cold climate. In comparison, in South Africa, it is much warmer and drier with more sunshine hours because of less cloud cover. Dairy cows are well adapted to a cold climate, making them sensitive to hot conditions. They need protection against heat. This can be done by providing a simple shade structure or through different types of housing systems. While a shade structure is a cost effective way to protect cows against summer heat, it does not provide protection against rain and cold winds. Although more costly to put up, an intensive housing system provides protection against summer heat, winter cold and wind while also enabling keeping a larger number of cows on a small area. In an open camp system at least 100-150 m2/cow is required while 10-15 m2/cow is required for an intensive system.

Housing requirements

A housing system is a fixed asset and is difficult to change. The correct design should therefore be used. Shortcomings in housing systems become more noticeable creating significant adverse effects on animal health, welfare and production. Recently the large effect of the Holstein breed on the dairy industry is becoming clear as present-day dairy cows are larger in stature resulting in cows being too big for housing systems that were put up from the 1970s onwards.The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register


  • Research Associate, Faculty of Animal Sciences, University of Stellenbosch

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