Mid-September means housing cattle for winter is just a matter of weeks away for farmers operating on heavier land.

On farms with drier land, housing will probably get under way from mid- to late October, weather and grass supplies depending.

As the grazing season enters the last few weeks, make it a priority to get cattle sheds ready for housing.

Outlined are five jobs to get sheds ready for when cattle have to come inside for winter.


Every year, there are plenty of farmers who repeatedly experience problems with pneumonia in young calves, weanlings and bought-in animals.

While stress can trigger pneumonia, it is more likely that the lack of natural ventilation in sheds will be the cause of the problem.

Therefore, take the time to alter air flow in sheds as necessary. Cast your memory back to previous years and recall which cattle groups were most affected.

Carrying out a smoke test will show up the airflow in shed

Carrying out a smoke test will show up the airflow in shed. An alternative is to set a small bag of straw on fire on slats and watch the movement of smoke. Keep a bucket of water close by for safety.

Smoke should rise and exit the sheds in a matter of minutes. Once the fire is out, the smell of smoke should be gone within 15 minutes if air flow is adequate.

If smoke is slow to rise and lingers above pens, then air flow should be altered before cattle are housed.

This could be as simple as removing a few sheets of tin or space boarding for the sides, as well as removing part of the roof ridge or widening the existing opening.

Washing sheds

Cattle sheds should also be washed out thoroughly and allowed to dry before animals are housed. Make sure to wash ventilated tin and space boards as well as the shed roof.

When sheds have dried out, disinfectant can be sprayed on walls. Spraying disinfectant before the shed is washed will make the chemicals less effective.

Alter feed gates

Make sure feed gates and internal dividing gates are hung properly. Make sure feed gates have adequate spacings to accommodate animals.

If calves have a tendency to come through feed gates, then again, alter the spacing now.

Replace wooden boards on the bottom of feed gates that keep silage being pushed into slatted pens.

Water provision and frost proofing

Are water troughs fit for purpose, leaking or prone to animals soiling in them?

If not, replace older troughs and fittings now so drinkers are working properly before housing.

Also, replace or install lagging and insulation on pipes that are prone to freezing over winter.

Upgrading lights

Finally, replace and upgrade internal lights to increase visibility in cattle sheds. This will make it easier to visually check animals without having to enter pens.

Increased visibility in sheds also makes it a much safe working environment during winter, when day light hours are limited and feeding cattle regularly takes place in the evening. LED lights will improve visibility and reduce energy use.

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