Topless cubicles: On page 22 we feature two spring calving farmers who have recently installed topless cubicles. Many will see them as a stage in between a full shed or a kennel-type shed. Most farmers who are installing them are converting woodchip stand-off pads, so they already have large-volume slurry storage in place. Umbilical spreading systems are almost essential if collecting large volumes of water and slurry. You will collect a lot more water during the winter months, but when there are no cows in the topless cubicles you can divert the rainwater to the clean drain. Such a cubicle might suit those with short winters who want to minimise expenditure on housing.

Conference season: Two national dairy conferences are scheduled for early 2014. The Irish Grassland Association are holding their annual dairy conference in Kilkenny on 7 January. Book online or at 087-9626483. The Positive Farmers conference is scheduled for 15 and 16 January in Clonmel this year. Book online or at 087-6070150.