Gerry Giggins: Poorly designed housing is now a major factor in disease outbreaks
Usually a new year brings a positivity and the opportunity to look forward to the 12 months ahead.
Unfortunately this is certainly not the case for the beef sector. Poor beef prices, Brexit uncertainty, reduction of the national suckler herd and the bad publicity beef has received regarding its environmental impact have all led to very low morale within the sector.
At farm level, lice and mange infestations, sweating cattle, increased viral outbreaks and delays in sending fit cattle to factories have further compounded an already poor situation.
The unseasonable mild weather that we have had for the majority of the winter has had a welcome and positive effect on grass growth.
This has allowed farmers who were tight on feed supplies to graze, zero graze or even make silage from this bonus growth period.
Unfortunately for housed cattle, this mild weather has put a huge burden on the health status. Digital dermatitis, lice/ mange and respiratory problems are very common as a result of us not receiving any prolonged period of cold and windy weather.
Poorly designed cattle sheds, from a ventilation point of view, have compounded these animal health issues.
As is witnessed by the design of many sheds constructed and grant-aided under the Farm Modernisation and Farm Waste Management scheme, for example, it is easy to see that engineers were consulted instead of those with cattle experience when it came to certain specifications.