The shed is four-bay with a slatted tank and feed barrier at the front, and a straw bedded loose area behind it (as shown in the picture). The shed is 19.2m (63ft) long over the four bays, while the span is 12.8m (42ft), including the 2.4m (8ft) roof overhang. The overhang is essential for keeping feed dry, Michael said. The shed was finished last October and the cattle went into it in November. Sensible use of gates and barriers mean the layout is flexible. Cows/weanlings can be locked on to the slats, or allowed back on to the straw. Creep gates are used for calves. ’’It’s a grand shed, I’m delighted with it to be honest,’’ he said.
The shed was built by TJ Garahy, based in Kiltegan, Co Wicklow; concreting was done by Tommy Ging. The shed and handling yard cost €80,000, excluding VAT, and before receipt of grant aid. Michael built under the FWMS, and has received his first 40% instalment.
Most farmers who built a winter house over the past two years also invested in a modern handling yard beside it. Michael’s new yard measures 18.2m long (60ft) and 9.1m wide (30ft), which is more than big enough. The door from the shed opens in a forcing pen for the race. Effectively, cattle can be let out of any of the pens in the shed, and straight into the race and crush. The walls are high at over 7ft. ’’They’re high enough so that the cattle are not tempted. And they give shelter to the yard,’’ he said
But, Michael also wanted the handling yard to be available if needed for other use, for example temporary holding and loading of grain at harvest time. As a result, the crush and race can be removed. The crush can be hitched on to the back of a jeep or tractor. The race can be lifted up. All its posts sit into lined holes in the concrete. At the same time, the race is secure and safe to operate; the centre post means the gate won’t bend under pressure from big suckler cows.
Metal work in the shed is simple, but effective. This creep gate is adjustable. The barrier is telescopic, sliding in to widen the gap as calves grow bigger. The bolt with a T-handle locks the sliding gate at the chosen width.
Inside the shed, all gate latches are stockproofed against nosing and licking. The guard has to be lifted up to allow the bar be slid across.
This gate won’t rattle in the wind On outside gates, a simple hoop welded on to a stanchion gives support. Held like this, the gate hinges are less likely to be damaged than if just a chain was used.
Lockable feed barriers are fitted on one bay. ’’They’re a must for suckler cows,’’ Michael said. ’’We did a ceasarean section on one, while she was restrained in one of the barriers. We had the comfort of the shed with good lighting, and all the rest. They’re not a lot extra in cost, perhaps €250 for a bay,’’ he said.
The site where the shed was built sloped down below the level of the existing yard, so the ground had to be raised at one end. The fall can be seen in this picture, which was taken by Elaine Tomlinson during the building job last autumn. The top of the underground tank, which is 8ft deep, was well above the original ground level, by as much as 1m at the near end.
Luckily, there was gravel freely available on the farm for building up the site. Michael told me that over 2,000 tonnes was used. The top soil was dug off the site, and then the gravel was hauled up by three dump trailers over the course of two days. Bought in fill would’ve cost from €100 to €150 plus VAT per 20t load, depending on what material was used, so even after allowing for the cost of haulage I calculate the saving would have been €10,000 or more.
Michael Tomlinson and his daughter, Elaine, outside the new suckler shed and handling yard.