Outdoor straw pads

Find out about planning requirements, design suggestions and animal management on outdoor straw pads.

Why use outdoor straw pads?

A straw pad is an outdoor deep-bedded enclosure for keeping cattle in. On unlined pads, the depth of bedding should provide sufficient absorptive capacity to retain the dung and urine generated by the cattle and rainfall during the stocking period. Regular additions of bedding should be made to the pad during the stocked period to keep the bed clean and dry and to prevent contaminated run-off from the pad.

Keeping cattle outside on a well-designed and managed outdoor pad, including straw and woodchip pads, offers many benefits, including:

  • Improved animal health and welfare
  • Less damage to pasture from treading and potential poaching
  • Reduced labour costs and a cheaper alternative to constructing traditional buildings

However, any effluent draining from a pad is likely to be high in nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and faecal pathogens, representing a high risk of diffuse water pollution.

Farmers thinking of constructing an outdoor pad are encouraged to seek specialist advice at an early stage of design. Any effluent draining from a straw pad is classed as slurry, and lined pads must drain to a slurry store. Farmers considering constructing an unlined straw pad must first consult the Environment Agency to demonstrate that their planned outdoor pad does not pose an unacceptable risk of diffuse pollution.

Site selection and planning requirements for outdoor straw pads

Practical advice on planning and design requirements for outdoor straw pads.  

Read about planning requirements and selecting a site for straw pads

Management of outdoor straw pads

Further information on pad design for feed, water and bedding management.  

Find out how to manage outdoor straw pads

Using farmyard manure (FYM)

Typical nutrient composition of farmyard manure (FYM) from the Nutrient Management Guide (RB209) Section 2 Organic materials.

How to use FYM

Useful links

Research into straw pads for beef cattle

Guidelines for managing outdoor straw pads for beef cattle

Using brassicas for Better Returns manual

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