I had a number of issues in my calf housing this year including scour and pneumonia while calves just didn’t seem to perform as well as other years. Is there anything I can do now to minimise a risk of this being repeated next spring?

The prompt cleaning and disinfecting of animal housing following the winter housing period will deliver numerous benefits.

Robust cleaning via power washing or steam cleaning is also essential before disinfection

The standout advantage is in terms of disease control as the longer animal housing is cleaned between batches of animals, the lower the risk will be of bacteria and disease remaining in the environment.

Robust cleaning via power washing or steam cleaning is also essential before disinfection, especially where there have been issues present, as disinfectants are likely to be ineffective or inactivated if applied to dirty surfaces.

The other aspect you need to consider is ventilation and stocking rate

This is particularly important when dealing with infectious agents such as cryptosporidium, coccidiosis, E coli, etc.

It is important to note than in the case of many of these diseases, such as cryptosporidium, a disinfectant like Kenocox which targets oocysts is necessary. Take note of recommended contact times and wear suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).

The other aspect you need to consider is ventilation and stocking rate. You should assess if there was a higher stocking rate in the shed and if this might have put pressure on the system while a review of shed ventilation is always prudent to carry out.

A neighbour of mine had an unfortunate incidence where three cattle fell through broken slats into an underground tank. My shed was built at a similar time over 25 years ago and it has prompted me to start planning to replace the slats. Can I avail of grant assistance to do so?

May and June are two months where the Irish Farmers Journal receives numerous queries regarding replacement of slats and availing of grant aid to do so with a number of queries received in recent weeks.

This is the second major benefit of prompt cleaning as it allows hairline cracks, exposed steel or surface damage such as worn/slippery surfaces or chipping to be readily identified.

There is a tight timeline if progressing down the grant aid route as the current tranche remains open until 23 July and it can take a period of up to three months or longer to find out if an application is deemed successful.

In terms of grant aid, the Department’s reference costs for the replacement of cattle, sheep and calf slats is similar at €58.60/m2. Pig slats have a lower reference cost of €45.80/m2.

Where slats are being replaced with slabs to fulfil housing requirements under the organic scheme, the reference cost is €57.10/m2.

If a tank needs to be extended to allow for external agitation, then the reference cost is listed at €4,125

Manhole covers for agitation points are costed at €407 per item.

The presence of external agitation points is a requirement for grant aid to be payable on the replacement of slats. If a tank needs to be extended to allow for external agitation, then the reference cost is listed at €4,125.

The installation of a safety agitation platform for existing external tanks has a reference cost of €1,633.20.

Cubicle access: A couple of queries have also been received regarding simple systems which can be put in place to prevent cows from lying on cubicles in collection yards or housing to access the milking parlour.

Many farmers find that erecting a simple strand of non-electrified polywire or a rope along by the cubicle face will keep cows from accessing cubicles.

Ratchet straps provide a more robust barrier while a longer-term solution, where this is not successful, includes fixing a hollow bar at right angles to the cubicles.

TAMS reader query

Do I need to complete a farm safety training course if I am purchasing equipment under TAMS II such as LESS equipment? If so, when will physical courses be available?

The terms and conditions for all seven application avenues for TAMS II state that a safety training COP certificate must be completed for an application for payment to be processed.

COVID-19 flexibilities, which were in place allowing applications to be temporarily processed without a farm safety COP certificate, ended on 26 April 2021.

All farm safety applications completed after 28 February 2021 must be completed online to be acceptable. It is important to ensure that course providers have completed the necessary refresher course and that the course offered is TAMS II approved.

The current arrangements will be reviewed in June, taking into consideration the public health restrictions at the time with a view to physical courses resuming. Completion of the half-day farm safety code of practice (given by Teagasc or other trained persons) or the FETAC Level 6 new award system QQ1 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture (Green Cert) will suffice if it has been completed in the last five years prior to the date of application or submission of a payment claim.

Where additional time is required to complete training, current applicants whose applications are due to expire between 1 April and 30 June can apply for a three-month extension with these submitted via your local office which has granted approval.