Facts and figures: To roof or not to roof cubicles?
It might have been considered madness as little as 10 years ago, but roofless cubicles have been springing up around the country in recent years. In comparison to roofed cubicles costing €700-950/cubicle, roofless cubicles can be half the cost, at €300-500/cubicle.
Note that none of these figures include slurry storage - one of the most overlooked aspects of farm yard design during expansion.
A slurry storage deficit can be costly if a Single Farm Payment fine is incurred during an inspection from either the Local authorities or the Department of Agriculture.
The additional rainwater collected from roofless cubicles can increase slurry requirements by up to 80pc.
There are three main options for slurry storage: underground slatted tanks, overground slurry tower and a geoline-membrane lagoon. Cost per gallon gets cheaper as size increases, especially for lagoons.
In the context of a roofed cubicle where no rainwater is being collected, slurry storage will cost:
- €500/cow for an underground slatted tank;
- €360/cow for an overground slurry tower store;
- €150/cow for a geoline membrane slurry lagoon.
Note that if rainwater is being collected from roofless cubicles, it increases the slurry capacity requirements and cost by approx 80pc depending on location.
By adding up these costs, we can estimate both ends of spectrum in a 100 cow example;
- The high cost option at €122,500, or €1,225/cow, is a roofed cubicle shed with slurry storage provided for by way of underground slatted tanks.
- The low cost option with roofless cubicles and slurry storage provided by a geoline membrane slurry lagoon comes in at €67,000, €670/cow.
The advantage of not installing a roof is a saving of around €55,000 per 100 cows accommodated.
Roofless Cubicles do make sense for some farmers, especially now that the woodchip that 'pads' depend on has become so expensive.
For those farmers working within budgetary constraints it can be the first step to creating a cow place which ultimately can be covered with a shed in time if the farmer so wishes. In almost all cases though we are asked to design the cubicle layout and feed area so that it can be roofed at a later date if required.
This is achieved by casting pad foundations in a grid pattern underneath the concrete pad and cubicle beds which allows steel roof-supporting stanchions to be bolted down in these locations.
Some farmers who have large lagoons or over-ground tower tanks in place already are adding topless cubicles nearby. This can be a good combination given the extra rain water that lands on such projects.
Provision must be made during the construction to create a diversion for rainwater to an adjacent stream or drain for those months when no animals are using the cubicles. This helps minimise collecting unnecessary water.
One combination that rarely works is underground slatted with topless cubicles. Often the cost of the additional underground slatted tanks required to cope with rainfall is equal to the cost of roofing the project.
With outdoor cubicles the welfare and health of the cow can be an issue. We usually look for a sheltered location on the farm.
Where this is not possible, we would recommend the construction of an earthen bank around the cubicle compound.
A major factor in deciding to go roofed or unroofed for cubicles is to look at the average net rainfall for the area in question. Areas that experience high levels of rainfall such as Cork, Kerry, Clare, Mayo and Donegal may not always be suitable. See the case study, and the accompanying tables and diagrams for gallons generated and cost comparisons in providing this accommodation below.
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