Make sure your animal housing is up to scratch

Take stock: Now is a good time to assess sheds and farmyard
Take stock: Now is a good time to assess sheds and farmyard

Niall Kerins

Attention is turning to building grass covers for the autumn, followed by housing stock. The year has been favourable, and most farms have not had to rehouse stock since they went out grazing full-time.

August tends to be a quiet month, so why not take advantage today and assess your animal housing?

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Take a look around your sheds and yard. You may need to hire in contractors to get some maintenance work complete, which can take time, so don't delay.

Water Troughs

Each day a milking cow drinks up to four litres of water for every litre of milk produced. It is important that drinking troughs in sheds are functioning correctly and can easily be cleaned on a regular basis.

Water troughs need to be placed at regular intervals, to avoid bullying and competitions for water.

Feed barriers/dividing gates

It is critical that all feed barriers, dividing gates and handling facilities are fit for purpose for the safe housing of animals and for you the farmer working with them.

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Barriers/handling gates are subjected to continuous wear and tear, so make sure you repair or replace damaged equipment.

Automatic slurry scrapers

Flow channels are cleaned numerous times a day and will be in use every day once animals are housed. Replace any worn parts or hoses on scrapers before the housing period starts.

New automatic slurry scrapers are grant aided under TAMS, so seek advice from your agricultural advisor.

Cubicles and slurry

Cow comfort is essential for the welfare and performance of your herd. Cows stressed at housing can result in issues with cell count, mastitis, lameness -- the list is endless.

A rule of thumb is that you need 10pc more cubicles than the number of cows in your herd: so for every 10 cows you should ideally have 11 cubicles. Replace any damaged cubicles and mats, to prevent animal welfare issues before housing starts.

Review slurry storage and take immediate action where stock numbers exceed the storage availability. Spread remaining slurry through low-emission application and farmyard manure, while ground conditions remain favourable.

Shed maintenance and lights

Power-wash sheds/calving facilities in the next few weeks, followed by applying a good disinfectant. Shortening daylight hours mean that lights in sheds and yards need to be working.

Rewiring existing farm sheds and installing extra yard lights are granted-aided under the TAMS.


Have you ever been in a crowded building where there is poor air-flow? It can be a very unpleasant experience.

You will be placing a large group of animals into a small space compared to having them out in open air for the summer months.

Adequate airflow without a draught is so important. There are several options available to increase ventilation in sheds such as vented sheeting, Yorkshire boarding and electric fans.

Slats and concrete grooving

Time and time again we hear of stories where old slats in sheds collapse, resulting in animals drowning. If you find slats knocking or moving, this is a sign they safely need to be removed and replaced.

Replacing old slats in an existing shed with new slats is again granted-aided under TAMS.

Consider concrete-grooving smooth surfaces where cows are walking on every day during the housed periods to prevent injury by slipping.

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