Cow cubicle facilities house a large number of cows that stay indoors for long periods and are increasingly milked by computerised robot machines – some stay inside permanently. The animals' well-being is secondary to their milk output. Large-scale factory farms are profit driven, viewing animals as units of production, rather than living creatures.
In 2009, three companies applied for resource consent to house nearly 18,000 cows in indoor cubicles for 24 hours a day, eight months of the year, and for the remaining four months to keep the cows inside for 12 hours a day.
Although this cruel practice is not yet the norm, many other types of confinement are currently employed on New Zealand dairy farms.
In "Off-pasture" systems, many cows have limited or no access to pasture, especially during the winter months. They are confined for long periods to "stand-off pads" (artificial flooring, no grass), wintering barns, laneways and dairy yards.
The various types of confinement include:
Free stall barns
These buildings are usually intended to house animals for long periods, in some cases all year round. Typically they have a concrete floor, with individual cow stalls and a central feeding alley. A cow can exit her stall and walk around the shed in the small amount of available space. She cannot leave the shed. A 2015 estimate found that there were 650 free stall cow barns in New Zealand.
An artificial flooring area (typically wood chip or metal) where cows can be held for long periods rather than out in pasture.
A roofed structure with a variety of layouts, internal fittings, floor types and bedding material.
A combination of feeding platform and stand-off pad with a "greenhouse"- type roof and slatted concrete floor designed to collect manure underneath.
A building intended to house animals for long periods, with a concrete feeding alley and another open area for cows to lie in.