As August nears an end, housing cattle on most farms is likely to get under way in six to eight weeks, depending on weather conditions during autumn.
With cattle still at grass and silage-making finishing up, farmers will hopefully see a lull in the workload over the next couple of weeks.
Use this time to good effect by preparing the farm for winter housing. This will take the pressure off in the event of a wet September and the need to house cattle earlier than planned.
Outlined are five jobs to get housing winter ready.
Ground conditions are generally good, so get as much slurry on to silage aftermath or grazed paddocks over the coming weeks when there is an opportunity.
Don’t delay this job and miss the window for spreading if ground can carry a tanker and weather is suitable.
Early spreading will take the pressure and stress off before the closed period starts.
2. Wash out cattle sheds
Clean cattle sheds with a pressure washer to remove soiled material from floors, walls and roofs. Make sure to clean cobwebs from sheeted tin and cladding also.
Washing sheds over the next couple of weeks allows buildings to dry properly.
With cattle still at grass and silage-making finishing up, farmers will hopefully see a lull in the workload over the next couple of weeks
Disinfectant should be applied then to kill bugs, not before the shed is washed. Spreading hydrated on walls and timbers lime is also a good idea.
I have been on plenty of farms during winter where farmers remark on problems with pneumonia due to poor airflow. Every year, the same problems keep arising.
So use the time between now and housing to alter ventilation. This may be as simple as removing sheet tin from the side walls, or replacing tin with space boarding.
Make sure the ridge of the shed roof is also open, allowing warm air to rise and exit.
This draws fresh air in, and through, the shed.
A smoke bomb test will show up any dead spots in airflow inside sheds.
Alternatively, light a bag of straw and monitor smoke movement. Smoke should rise and exit the shed within minutes.
4. Internal and external lights
Install, or replace lights inside the shed to make winter feeding and herding of cattle easier during the dark evenings.
LED lights are much better at increasing visibility than tungsten lights.
Outside of the shed, make sure there are adequate lights for working safely in the silage pits or opening with bales.
5. Feed gates and water trough repairs
Make sure feed gates and internal dividing gates are in working order. If gates are not hanging properly, or do not open and close with ease, make adjustments now.
The same goes with the head spacings in feed barriers.
If they are too wide and calves, or weanlings, tend to slip through and on to passage ways, then alter gates now.
The same goes if the stock bulls have trouble fitting their head through feed gates.
Make sure water troughs are in working order with a quick refill time. Where cattle have a tendency to stand and queue for water, especially finishing animals on high concentrate diets, replace water troughs to drinkers with larger capacity.