Is your winter housing ready for stock?

Anthony O'Connor

After the downpour of the last two months, fields are saturated, grass supply is scarce and any grass left is of little feeding value.

Some stock have been housed already to reduce the risk of poaching with lighter stock remaining outdoors.  Have housing facilities prepared for all stock. Carry out a last minute check on winter housing for livestock.

Go through the checklist below and see what needs to be done. Keep safety first in mind when viewing facilities:

  • If not done already, power wash and disinfect all sheds. If there has been a health problem in winter in the past, you may need to consult your vet for a strong, specialised disinfectant to use.
  • Inspect slatted area for damaged/cracked/sagging slats. Replace where necessary. Likewise, cracked/uneven concrete areas should be replaced. Keep stock off repaired area for some weeks.
  • Water bowls/piping needs to be inspected for any leaks and make sure that they are fixed securely to walls or gates. Clean out and disinfect all water bowls. Water piping above ground needs to be lagged against frost.
  • Check feed barriers are secure and all bolts and locks are in working order. Ensure that all doors and gates are hanging safely and can be fastened securely. Old or broken fixtures need to be repaired or replaced. Grease self-locking barriers and sliding doors so that they run smoothly.
  • All slurry agitation points must be securely covered and not easily opened.
  • Look at creep gates to verify they can be opened and closed when needed. Ensure that your calving gate is in good working order and safely secured.
  • Inspect all electrical fittings and replace any that are broken or damaged if required. Don't risk substandard fittings; they could be lethal to both man and animal.
  • Look at all gutters and downpipes to ensure they are not blocked and won't cause unwanted flooding of sheds/tanks over the winter.
  • Plastic covers on fluorescent roof lights should be cleaned where possible and damaged ones replaced. Clean lighting throws out more light. Likewise, check that all floodlights and halogen lamps, both inside and outside, are in full working order. Clean glass and replace bulbs where necessary.
  • Examine barriers, bars and safety area in bull pens to see that all is in order. Keep stock bull secure at all times.

Make a list of repairs needed and get them done. Don't delay. Do it today. Remember - farm maintenance is a driver of farm efficiency, saves time and labour, reduces problems with livestock and machinery, Most importantly, it helps prevent farm accidents.

Calving Area:

Hygiene is critical in calving boxes/areas. Every effort is needed to prevent the build-up of infection and disease. Thoroughly clean out, power wash and disinfect all calving boxes/calving areas. Use a strong disinfectant; this prevents a build-up of harmful micro-organisms such as Cryptosporidium. If there is a history of scour/disease/infection in the calving area, consult your vet on what specialised disinfectant to use. 

Creep Pens:

Likewise, hygiene is hugely important here. Remove all farmyard manure, old straw etc. Clean whole area, power wash and disinfect with a strong disinfectant. When dry, sprinkle the entire creep area with hydrated lime. This will act as an additional disinfectant.  Wear gloves and protect eyes when handling lime. Ensure to have enough straw in store to cover the entire calving period.

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Farm Machinery:

Tractors, shear grabs etc are necessary in months ahead. Service tractors. Check brakes and hydraulic systems. Grease all external moving parts. Sharpen blades; replace pens of shear grabs etc. List repairs needed and get them done. Don't delay. Do it NOW.

Anthony O'Connor, Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit

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