Outdoor cattle grazing

Dairy cows that are usually housed tethered in tie-stall barns must be allowed access to an outdoor exercise yard or pasture. The requirement also applies to heifers reared for milk production from the age of eight months onwards.

Advice and guidance

Cows must be allowed outdoors with freedom of movement for at least 60 days during the summer between 1 May and 30 September and for 30 days during winter i.e. 1 October - 30 April.

Cows must be allowed access to and freedom of movement in a pasture or other suitable outdoor space. A suitable outdoor space to allow movement is one with at least 6 m2 of space per cow. The space must be at least 50 m2 in size.

We can grant an exemption for keeping cows indoors if

  • there is no suitable pasture or exercise yard on the farm,
  • providing an outdoor space for grazing would place an unreasonable burden on the farmer, or
  • compliance with the grazing requirement cannot be achieved without unreasonable inconvenience due to the surrounding transport infrastructure, terrain or distances.

The permit, i.e. the exemption from access to the outdoors, is valid for a maximum of five years at a time and at most until the end of 2034.

If you are unable to provide your cattle with an outdoor space for grazing, you can write to your nearest Regional State Administrative Agency and ask for permission to keep your cows indoors in the summer. 

There is no application form, so you need to explain your circumstances in your own words. A link to the contact information of Regional State Administrative Agencies’ registries is provided at the bottom of this page.

Make sure that your application includes at least the following information:

  • your name, address and telephone number
  • your farm ID, the address of your farm and your business ID
  • the number of dairy cows and dairy heifers aged at least eight months that you keep tethered on your farm
  • the reason why your dairy cows and heifers cannot be allowed outdoors
  • the layout of your farm
  • a map of any fields and other land on the farm that lie within one kilometre of the barn
  • any other relevant information that could influence the Regional State Administrative Agency’s decision.

Requests for exemptions are forwarded to the Regional Veterinary Officer. The applicant may be asked to provide further information.

In some cases, we conduct an inspection on the farm. If an inspection is necessary, we will contact you and arrange a suitable time.

The processing fee is EUR 220. The same fee applies regardless of whether or not an application is successful. We will send you a bill afterwards.

Enforcing the outdoor grazing requirement is the responsibility of local authority veterinary officers. If a farmer is found not to have provided an outdoor space for their cattle, the competent local authority veterinary officer can issue an order or an injunction. 

Regional State Administrative Agencies can threaten to fine the farmer if such orders or injunctions are not complied with.

Links to legal texts