Superb sheep house in Mayo
The recovery in lamb prices will spur on some farmers to invest in new sheep housing or in upgrading what they already have. Last week, I visited a fine sheep shed in Mayo that will give useful pointers. The shed is on the farm of Padraic Gibbons, at Liscarney, outside Westport.
Two factors helped make this a nice unit. The Farm Waste Management Scheme provided grant aid and Padraic works in the plant hire and farm building business, with brother Peter, operating as Plant Master Ground Works. The brothers finished this shed to a high standard.
Padraic runs a flock of about 200 ewes. Lambing is now winding down. He is waiting for 60 horny hogget ewes to lamb. These were bought in to cross breed back with Suffolk to maintain a hardy ewe that will still produce a big lamb.
The shed is a five-bay double, making it 80ft (24m) long. The span is 72ft (22m), so the floor area is 5,700 square feet.
The roof is good and high at 13 feet at the eves. There is a ridge ventilation canopy. So, this is a very airy and fresh shed which helps the health of ewes and lambs. There are also two sliding doors at each end, allowing good control of the environment in the shed. That's necessary given that this is an open site.
The shed will never subside - the site was a rock outcrop. Padraic told me that he spent about three weeks working with a rock breaker levelling the site and digging out for the underground tank and foundations.
This shed has nearly everything an ideal sheep shed should have.
Starting at the left, there are 5m wide straw-bedded pens. Two were in use last week for ewes with triplets, etc. Next is a 6m feed passage.
Then we have the business end of this shed: the 5m wide slatted pens where the horny ewes are now standing.
There is a second feed passage on the right hand side, near the camera, but its chief function is as a handling area and it holds a straightforward but effective handling unit.
The open layout and square shape make this a very good shed to work in. It is bright, which is enabled by the clear roof sheets. The light-coloured underside of the metal cladding also reflects a lot of light back down to the ground.
Padraic also installed three fluorescent lights in each bay. They all make for very good working conditions. ''It's like daylight in here,'' Peter told me.
The metal of the shed was fabricated by Noel Brennan of Swinford. The steelwork is galvanised.
In this shed, the yeaning ewes stand on plastic slats suspended over a four feet six inch deep effluent tank.
Padraic is very pleased with the slats. They stay clean, cut out the labour of bedding and, with a 14mm gap, are safe for the feet of ewes and lambs.
They are also warm under lambs, Padraic said. The ewes seemed very comfortable and secure moving around on the plastic slats.
The plastic slats are Trapper brand supplied by O'Donovan Engineering in Cork and, after some discussions, they were eligible for FWMS grant aid. They are solid underfoot.
Each gang is slotted down on to two metal support bars. These run across the pen from left to right, sitting on the tank outer walls and the central spine wall.
In addition, the sides of each gang have notches so they interlock, making the floor rigid.
O'Donovan Engineering says that the latest version of these slats, the Stepper, sell for €4, plus VAT, per square foot (€43 plus VAT per square metre), supply only.
This feed walkway between the two main slatted pens allows tidy feeding of meals but doesn't waste any shed space.
Purpose-made gates are easy to use and help make this a one man set up.
Penning, gates, etc, were supplied by Tuam Farm Supplies.
Pictures 6 & 7
Here, we are looking at the temporary pens for ewes and lambs and, behind them, the race leading on to the weighing scales. It is an electronic unit with digital display.
Next comes the drafting gate and chute with removable footbath.
On hand to show me this shed were (back, from left): Padraic Gibbons, his father William and brother Peter; (front, from left) Padraic's son Conor and Peter's sons Jason, Evan and Kyle.
Padraic Gibbons told me that, in 2008, when material and labour prices were peaking, this shed would have cost about €150,000 before grant. The Gibbons had their own equipment available.