The evenings are closing in, and with the Ploughing just around the corner, it is that time of the year again when we need to prepare for the winter.
It is always a great idea to prepare well in advance before housing.
What facilities issues from last winter do you need to address?
Were there any safety concerns for people and stock? Did you have problems with ventilation, leading to health issues in stock?
It is important that facilities are ready well in advance of housing, as you never know when the Irish weather might change.
Sheds should be cleaned out and disinfected before stock return inside, particularly sheds for young stock. Don’t leave it until the last minute to get sheds ready, as you never know what jobs might need to be done, until you take a walk around and make a list.
You may need help to get some of your f acilities in order.
Starting early will make it easier to get that help well in advance of housing.
Calving boxes should be cleaned out, and maybe you s h o u ld co n s i d e r w h i t e - washing the walls, because it makes it easier to view animals on calving cameras. Check that your calving gate is in full working order. Remember that you should also check that your calving camera is working correctly in advance of housing.
It is easier to do any repairs before animals are in a shed. Many now have a camera that they can watch on their mobile phone. It’s a great piece of technology, especially if you are away from the farm, or those living a distance from the yard.
You can also install the app for viewing the camera on other people’s phones, tablets and laptops.
It makes monitoring cows much easier at night.
Ideally, all housing facilities should be cleaned out before the new housing period starts. Newly housed animals of all ages are stressed and, as a result, are more prone to diseases which may be present in sheds.
Slats and cubicles should ideally be power-washed and disinfected before housing. Also remember to clean out meal and water troughs thoroughly, before the next batch start feeding out of them.
Check that all structures and fittings in your sheds are still sound after last winter. Ensure that feed barriers are secure, and all bolts and locks are in working order. Any faults could result in injury to you or your animals. Water troughs should be inspected for any leaks, and you should also ensure that they are fixed securely to walls or gates.
They should also be cleaned out and disinfected. Water pipes and fittings should be checked for fault, and replaced where necessary.
Are all doors and g ates swinging correctly and safely, before stock return indoors? O l d o r b r o ke n f i x t u r e s s h o u ld be repaired or replaced.
Slat mats should be checked, to ensure they all remain secured.
Creep gates should also be inspected, to make sure they can be opened and closed easily and quickly when required.
Ensure that all agitation points are securely covered. Check that your calving gate is in good working order, and while you are at it, have a look at your calving jack and make sure it is OK, and that the two ropes are with it. Inspect all electrical fittings and replace any bulbs required.
Don’t risk substandard fittings, as they could be lethal to both man and beast.
L o o k at a l l g u t t e r s a n d downpipes, to ensure they are clear of debris, and won’t get blocked and cause unwanted flooding of sheds over the winter.
Perspex roof lights should be cleaned where possible, and damaged ones replaced. It is amazing how much more light clean or new sheets provide. Independent dairy and beef nutrition consultant Brian Reidy, Premier Farm Nutrition, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
At last Sunday’s Limerick Show, Vincent and Patrick Lynch, Kells, Co Meath, showing their 2017 All-Ireland Non-Pedigree Calf Champion, with Mary Liston and Dermot Graham of AIB, championship sponsor.