This study aimed to compare three woodchip out-wintering pad (OWP) designs, and indoor cubicle housing with regard to cow dirtiness scores during the winter housing period, and udder health during both the winter period and the following lactation, for spring-calving dairy cows. The treatments were: an uncovered (UP) and covered (CP) OWP with a concrete feed apron; an uncovered OWP with self-feed silage pit provided directly on the woodchips (SP); and indoor cubicle housing (IC). Data were compared during 2 years: year 1 was a case study while year 2 was an experimental study. In year 1, treatments were UP (space allowance = 12 m2/cow), CP (6 m2/cow) and IC. In year 2, all three OWP designs (12 m2/cow) were compared with IC. Animals were assigned to treatments at the end of lactation in the autumn, and remained there while dry until calving the following spring. Subsequently, all cows were at pasture during lactation. Outcome measures for analysis were cow dirtiness score, somatic cell score (SCS) and incidence of clinical mastitis during the dry period and during lactation. Quarter milk samples were also taken at drying off, calving and 3 weeks post partum both years, and at approximately 113 days in milk in year 2. Samples were analysed for presence of mastitis-causing agents and SCS was determined. Sub-clinical mastitis was diagnosed when cows had an SCS greater than 200 000, or California mastitis test greater than 1 in at least one quarter. In year 1, cows in CP were dirtier than cows in the other two treatments. These animals also had the highest SCS during lactation and tended to have more mastitis-causing agents isolated from quarter milk samples. In year 2, when all cows were stocked at the same density, cows in the sheltered OWP (i.e. CP) had similar dirtiness scores to cows in cubicles and significantly lower dirtiness scores than cows in the unsheltered OWP designs, i.e. UP and SP. However, there were no effects on SCS or quarter sample results. Cleaning of OWP’s stocked at 12 m2/cow reduced cow dirtiness scores. However, cleaning of CP in year 1 when cows were stocked at 6 m2/cow had no effect on dirtiness scores. We conclude that dry cows stocked at 12 m2/cow on OWP’s are unlikely to have udder health problems in the subsequent lactation. Furthermore, provision of shelter and cleaning of the woodchips are management factors that help to keep cows clean on OWP’s.