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Good Winter Practice

Winter is a critical period to ensure good condition of cows and sheep. We are working with farmers to support good practice.

National proposed amendments

There are currently amendments being proposed to some of the Essential Freshwater regulations for intensive winter grazing.

If accepted, the updated regulations would take effect from the proposed date of 1 November 2022.

For more information read the Ministry for the Environment's intensive winter grazing discussion document

What is intensive winter grazing?

Under the National Environmental Standards Freshwater (NES-F), intensive winter grazing is grazing livestock (including sheep) on an annual forage crop at any time in the period that begins on 1 May and ends on 30 September of the same year.

An annual forage crop is a crop, other than pasture, that is grazed in the place where it is grown. Annual ryegrass is a pasture, so isn’t considered an annual forage crop.

What are the regulations?

The Government’s September 2020 Essential Freshwater Regulations include new rules about winter grazing of animals (including sheep).

In April 2021 they announced a deferral of the requirement for consent part of the Intensive Winter Grazing (IWG) regulations for a year until May 2022.

This will allow for improvements in IWG practice relating to freshwater to be achieved primarily through freshwater farm plans.

Any expansion of winter grazing beyond what was done in hectares over the reference period (2014-2019) does still require consent, and this part of the regulations has not been deferred.

We are working closely with farmers to encourage best practices in winter grazing, ahead of the new regulations coming into effect next year.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Ministry for the Environment (MfE), councils and industry representatives, have developed an online tool to help improve practices to benefit freshwater quality and animal welfare.

This includes an easy-to-use template for farmers who don’t already have a written plan for their winter grazing. Farmers who have existing plans, need to update them to reflect expectations set out in the module.

You can access the 2021/2022 Intensive Winter Grazing Module here

Do I need a consent?

Landowners who want to expand their winter grazing area beyond what was grazed between 2014-2019 will still be required to apply for a discretionary activity consent with strict conditions.

Anyone who is unsure if they need a consent is encouraged to get in touch with our Consents Team. We can also email or post you the resource consent application form.

You will be able to graze stock on forage crops in winter without needing a resource consent if:

  • The area being grazed is either less than 50 ha or 10 percent of the property, whichever is the larger (for example, on a property of 600 ha, the activity threshold is 60ha, whereas on a property of 300 ha, the threshold is 50 ha), and
  • The maximum slope of your paddock is less than 10-degrees, and
  • Livestock must be kept back more than five metres from a river, lake, wetland, or drain; and
  • Pugging  - take reasonable steps to manage effects on freshwater) and
  • Bare ground in paddocks subject to winter grazing is re-sown as soon as practicable, and
  • Critical Source Areas (CSAs) must be protected (ungrazed from 2022 and uncultivated and ungrazed from 2023)
  • You intensively grazed the land between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2019 and the area you intend to graze is no bigger than in that period.

Please note these requirements may change as a result of proposed amendments to the regulation. The requirements above have been updated to the proposed changes consulted on in 2021.

What is the IWG farm module?

On 27 April the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry for the Environment released the 2021/22 Intensive Winter Grazing Module.

The new module includes an easy-to-use template for farmers who don’t already have a written plan for their winter grazing.

It provides solutions farmers can take to mitigate the effects of grazing livestock on fodder crops during the winter months.

The four key steps that you as a farmer can take: plan, do, check, reflect and review.

Plan – you need to have a winter management plan now
Do – during the winter, if things are not going to plan, change your plan
Check – check your plan as the season progresses, and ask for help if you need
Reflect and Review – It’s important to look back on what went well and what didn’t

Cows eating winter crops 4

 Good winter practice

  • supports good animal health and welfare
  • minimises contaminant loss to the environment
  • complies with Hawke's Bay Regional Council regulations
  • protects valuable topsoil
  • complements the overall dairy system and the work of the team on farm.

This guide has tips on managing paddock selection, overland flow, cultivation and strategic crop grazing.


More information and wintering resources can found at: and 

Concerned about winter grazing practices?

If you are worried about winter grazing practices you can call:

  • 0800 FARMING supported by industry and councils and provides an opportunity for the community to give feedback.
  • MPI’s animal welfare hotline 0800 00 83 33 

Cows eating winter crops


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