Although autumn is just getting under way, farmers should be giving some thoughts to getting sheds ready for winter housing.

Hopefully weather will be kind and stock can remain at grass until at least October. But there is always the risk of a wet spell forcing farmers into housing stock early.

Regardless of land type, take steps over the next few weeks to get sheds ready for housing in the event of an early winter. Outlined are five jobs to carry out.

1. Slurry

Take every opportunity to get slurry tanks emptied before the closed period. The obvious option is to target silage aftermath with slurry.

But if ground conditions are holding up and grazing rotations are between 21 and 25 days, light slurry applications could be applied as paddocks are cleaned out.

2. Washing cattle sheds

If sheds have yet to be cleaned out, do so over the next fortnight. Power hosing is a boring job, but a couple of hours every day will soon add up, leaving sheds clean and ready for housing.

Make sure to wash sidewalls, side sheets and remove all cobwebs from shed roofs where it is safe to do so.

3. Work lights

Check internal and external lights in sheds and silage pits. Replace bulbs which have blown, opting for LED lights to increase visibility.

Adding a couple of extra lights to sheds with poor visibility will transform working conditions in winter, making it easier to check stock and safer when working in the silage clamp.

4. Fix feed gates and water troughs

Make repairs or alterations to feed barriers and dividing gates. Ensure head spacings on feed gates are wide enough for weanlings, stores or cows. Do not forget about the bull.

If there is time, paint the areas where feed gates are in contact with silage to prevent corrosion.

5. Altering airflow

Think back to previous years. Do weanlings and calves always have problems with pneumonia during the housing period?

This may be down to poor airflow in sheds. Replacing a few side sheets of tin with Yorkshire cladding will improve airflow, as will opening the ridge on the shed roof.

Test the airflow in sheds using a smoke bomb. Alternatively, fill an old meal bag with straw, place in the penned areas and set it on fire, keeping a bucket of water handy to extinguish it.

As the smoke rises, it should exit the shed within a couple of minutes. If the smoke just swirls and accumulates above the cattle pens, ventilation is poor and needs improving before housing.

Read more

Time running out for autumn reseeding

Five tips for building grass covers for autumn grazing