The construction of calving facilities, separation pens and isolation boxes is covered under Department of Agriculture specification S147 of 2018. There is some overlap with other specifications with regards concrete works (S101) and the roof structure/ladding materials (S102), for example, but S147 is the go-to specification in terms of design advice.
This article will summarise some of the main elements and advice detailed in the specifications on the construction of calving pens and isolation boxes. The latter is becoming a critical asset on expanding units, in particular, in order to quickly move to get on top of any suspected diseases that may lead to an outbreak occurring.
Cost of structure
Calving pens are costed under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II) per metre squared using the internal length and internal width. The reference cost listed by the Department for a calving pen is €205.20/m2. This cost is exclusive of VAT and covers the entire structure and all fittings, including a calving gate.
Calving gates inserted into existing facilities are costed at €148.90 per linear metre
Where a structure is being built as an attachment/extension to an existing building and an existing wall is shared, then the cost of the common wall must be deducted from the cost of the new building. It is worth noting that new structures can only be joined to existing structures where they have been built to a satisfactory specification. Calving gates inserted into existing facilities are costed at €148.90 per linear metre. Isolation boxes are also costed per metre squared using the internal and external width. The reference costing is listed as €396.40/m2. Again, this figure is exclusive of VAT and includes the entire structure and any relevant fittings.
The specifications recommend that at least one calving pen should be provided for every 15 to 20 cows in a herd. The minimum dimensions stated are no less than 3.5m by 4.8m, while the maximum dimension of the length and width cannot exceed 6m.
Every calving pen must have access to a calving gate within the pen. This means that there must be at least one calving gate between every two calving pens, as to the recommendation is that a separate calving gate is installed in every pen.
Calving pens do not require separate effluent storage facilities and the advice is to install a mechanism that directs effluent to a suitable storage tank
The specifications also state that where a calving gate is shared between pens, a system must be provided to restrain the cow and calf in the other pen while the calving gate is in use.
The construction of calving gates is covered under specification S138. Calving pens do not require separate effluent storage facilities and the advice is to install a mechanism that directs effluent to a suitable storage tank.
With regards an isolation pen the advice is to have at least one isolation pen per 50 cows. They should ideally be located away from animal housing and cannot, under any circumstances, share common air space with any other isolation box, holding pen, livestock housing, etc.
Any common walls between an isolation box and any other pen, building, etc, must be built tight to roof level. Isolation boxes require separate collection facilities for effluent, so that it can be spread if required on non-grazing land.
The storage capacity required is at least 140l (30 gallons) per box. Tanks must be fitted with a 450mm x 450mm medium weight galvanised steel manhole cover, in accordance with the Department’s specification S123.
Health and safety
The access to calving pens or isolation boxes must be from directly outside the building or from a suitable passageway within the building.
The specifications highlight that under no circumstances can the only access to these areas be through calving pens or another animal pen.
A permanent footbath must be constructed outside all isolation boxes to enable the user to disinfect boots on entry and exit. This is not mandatory for calving pens, although it is recommended to do so.
A hose point for cleaning is required, while it is also mandatory to provide suitable access to drinking and feeding points.
Permanent open ventilation must be provided as a strict condition of grant aid.
Opening/closing windows, or opening/closing half-doors, shall not be included in the required inlet/outlet area calculations.