For more information on any of the products or diseases Kieran mentioned in this video, check out the links below. Alternatively, speak to your vet on how these products can be used within your herd.
See below, a virtual tour of a Teagasc shed. On the tour, we draw your attention to different areas which ensure optimal living conditions for the animals.
Bedding & Animal Space
When housing cattle, it is important to allow enough space for each animal to feed, drink and rest stress free. Animals of various sizes will have different space requirements. Always ensure that there is adequate bedding of clean, dry straw available during the housing period. Sheds should be bedded regularly to keep moisture levels low. To check, kneel in bedding for approximately 1 minute. If your knees are wet, the shed needs to be freshly bedded. The objective of bedding is to keep the animal clean and dry. Space requirement varies depending on shed type and the animal type. A suckler cow on straw will typically need 4 to 5 m2 of bedding space and weanlings on slats will need between 2 to 2.5 m2. For further information accommodation requirements see figure 1.
When housing cattle this autumn, it is important that all bedding from the previous year has been removed and the shed has been thoroughly cleaned. All areas of the shed including the feeding area should be power washed and adequately disinfected from the previous year. Feed space requirements depend on the feed availability. A general rule of thumb is to ensure each animal can feed at the same time. Typically, a suckler cow requires a feed space of 600 mm with space for two cows to pass behind. Diagonal barriers have the advantage of less bullying and reduce the amount of feed taken into the pen. Allow for the bottom rail when deciding the height of the stub wall. The animal’s neck should not normally come in contact with the top rail with diagonal feed barriers. See figure 2 below for further animal space requirements.
The objective of shed design is to ensure adequate air flow on a still day and to shelter animals on a day of high wind speeds. While this is possible for newly built sheds, older sheds may not be able to provide this function and rely on the stack effect. The stack effect is where the heat generated by animals in the building rises and is replaced by fresh air coming in at a lower level of the shed (above the wall, under the eaves or through the side sheeting/boarding). See figure 3 which illustrates this process.
Ventilation Calculations – Inlets and Outlets
The rate of ventilation is influenced by the size of the openings, the roof pitch and the difference between inlets and outlets. As a general rule of thumb, the inlet should be at least twice the size of the outlet. When designing a new building or improving an old one, it is important to calculate the area of outlet required in a roof to allow heat and moisture from the livestock to escape by natural convection. If making improvements to shed ventilation, inlet and outlet areas should be at least brought up to the sizes outlined in the DAFM specification S101. When considering inlet sheeting/boarding it is important to look at the function of each option. In certain situations either due to the layout or situation of a farm building, natural ventilation might be inadequate. In this instance, mechanical ventilation could be considered. You should consult with your agricultural consultant for the best advice on which sheeting/boarding to use which will depend on the prevailing wind direction, type of animal and number of animals to be housed in the shed.
- Ensure the outlet area is clean and clear.
- General required outlet sizes can be seen in figure 4. These figures can be modified based on stocking densities and roof pitch.
- Inlets should be provided beneath eaves using either a continuous opening, louvered sheeting, plastic mesh, or space boarding.
- The inlet area should be at twice the size of the outlet area to create a natural air flow.
Clean water access is a primary requirement of all animal housing and must be available at all times. It is important that the location and height of the trough can accommodate all animals in that shed. Water is frequently spilt around water feeders. Ensure that the area around the feeder is well drained and any spilt water can drain away from the bedding area. Avoid placing feeders in areas where spilt water will pool creating flooded areas of the shed. Aim to give access to 10% of the group to drink at any one time. Animal water intake depends on the age and stage of lactation. See figure 5 for more detail
For further information regarding sheds modifications talk to you vet, your agricultural consultant or visit the Teagasc webpage through the link here.
- Ryan, T. & Lenehan, JJ. 2016 – Winter accommodation for beef animals Teagasc beef manual
- Anon 2013. – Calf house ventilation – The basics MSD Animal Health
Suckler farmer Dara Walton has chosen vaccination as an optional measure under the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme-Sucklers (BEEP-S)
Dara Walton is well known in the beef farming community and indeed wider circles as one of the top performing beef herds in the country. He runs a herd of 60 spring-calving cows at Cappagh, Callan. The farm straddles the Kilkenny-Tipperary border. All progeny are reared to beef.
As part of the BEEP-S and to enhance the health of his stock, all weanlings are given their primary shot of Bovilis® Bovipast RSP around six weeks before they are housed. They get the booster shot four weeks later, along with a single shot of Bovilis IBR Marker Live. They are housed for the winter two weeks later.
Bovilis® Bovipast RSP contains IRP technology and provides broad protection against bacterial pneumonia caused by the bacteria Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica as well as the two main viruses, RSV (Bovine Respiratory Syncytial virus) and PI3 virus (Parainfluenza 3 virus). It is given under the skin.
As well as getting an additional BEEP-S payment of €30/calf, vaccination gives him the security and peace of mind of knowing that his valuable weanlings are protected against the major pneumonia threats.
Dara graduated from UCD with a degree in agricultural science in 2005. He combined farming with an off-farm job for the first 11 years after graduation. Since he started farming full-time, he has expanded the suckler herd from 50 to 60 cows.
The cows are mainly Limousin and Simmental cross with a bit Parthenaise. All replacements are home-bred and the aim is to have a breeding herd of three-quarters Limousin. Breeding is currently 60% AI with a stock Limousin and Charolais bull.
Dairy calf to beef
He has also developed and expanded a dairy calf to beef enterprise. This year he reared 60 calves, 40 Friesian bulls and 20 Angus and Hereford heifers. They were bought from his brother Pat, who runs a dairy farm next door. They were reared in three batches, starting in early February.
With around 250 animals to be managed and fed, he is facing into a busy winter. This year has also been a little busier on the home front for Dara and his wife Muireann, a public health nurse. Their daughter Eloise was born 13 months ago.
His parents Tommy and Patricia live in the family home beside the farmyard. A sprightly 89-year old, Tommy still plays an active and helpful role.
Herd IBR vaccination programme in place
Dara Walton operates a whole herd IBR (Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis) vaccination programme for the past number of years.
All calves were vaccinated intramuscularly with Bovilis® IBR Marker Live about four weeks before they are housed. Now, they are vaccinated approximately two weeks prior to housing at the same time the booster shot of Bovipast RSP is administered.
All breeding stock are given an annual booster shot of Bovilis® IBR Marker Live prior to housing.
The recent granting of a 12-months immunity license for Bovilis® IBR Marker Live greatly simplifies the IBR vaccination programme for farmers like Dara.
IBR is a highly infectious disease and almost three-quarters of all suckler and dairy herds are known to be positive to the IBR virus.
He started putting jackets on the calves last year and finds them a great benefit in health and performance. He also shaves the backs and tails of every animal at housing. He finds it a big help in avoiding respiratory problems.
Top performance from excellent grass management
Excellent grass and top class grass management are the hallmarks of Dara Walton’s beef production system.
He won the Zurich/Farming Independent Beef Farmer of the Year award in 2019, in recognition of his skills and performance across all aspects of beef production.
The entire farm has been reseeded over the past 12 years and the results are visible in leafy grazing paddocks with plenty of clover. He is faming 42ha of owned and 12 ha of rented land, which is used for two cuts of silage and grazing at the shoulders.
His target is to average 1kg/day gain from grass across all animals over the grazing season. This year the continental yearlings gained 1.5kg/day from March to July and the Friesian steers averaged 1.2kg.
While gains have gone back a bit since July, he is confident he will exceed the kilo/day target. Performance is continually monitored through regular weighing.
Calves are forward creep grazed ahead of the cows to ensure they get the most nutritious grass and achieve top performance.
When bull beef became “a recipe for losing money” he went back to steer beef three years ago. Steers are finished at 21-24 months and heifers at around 20 months.
Most of the finishing cattle are now housed and are getting around 7kg of concentrate. Finished heifers will be sold in about a month and he hopes to have most of the steers gone by Christmas.
Dara regards excellent quality silage as vital to the economics of his system. Last year’s silage had a DMD of 78%. This meant that no concentrate was fed to weanlings over the winter.
“I had 110 weanlings last winter and feeding them 2kg/day would have cost me €6,000. While the Friesian steers were a bit scrawny going to grass, I got great compensatory growth and they averaged 1.2kg/day up to July,” he said.
The quality of this year’s silage is back a bit, at 71-75DMD. He will probably have to feed the weanlings around a kilo/day of a high protein ration to keep them on a good growth curve.
The bucket-reared calves are fed meal for about two weeks after they are weaned off milk replacer. They are then on high quality grass only for the rest of the grazing season.
Even with doing everything right, Dara Walton is frustrated with the economic viability of beef production.
“Price is the determining issue. At €3.60-€3.65/kg, the economics just don’t stack up. The price would need to be in the €3.90-€3.95 range for me to get a viable income and return on my labour and investment.”