Tullamore Farm was taken on a 15-year lease from the Grogan family back in 2017, when it was a mixed beef and tillage farm. The Irish Farmers Journal established a suckler and sheep enterprise on the farm, and through our investment in grazing infrastructure, reseeding and building up soil fertility, we reached stock numbers of 90 suckler cows plus followers as well as a 270-ewe flock.
Lack of accommodation
There was a mix of slatted and dry bedded accommodation already on-farm when the Irish Farmers Journal began the lease. However, as ewe numbers increased, what was previously used as calving accommodation was then devoted to the ewe enterprise, so only three calving boxes were available.
This put pressure on farm manager Shaun Diver in the peak of calving and lambing if weather conditions delayed turnout of stock, forcing him to convert a central feed passage in one of the slatted houses to a temporary creep area.
As well as this, weanling heifers were being housed in rented accommodation five miles away at a cost of €4,000 per annum.
The decision was therefore made to construct a purpose-built four-bay slatted shed with a dry bedded lie-back area in the home farmyard. Carroll Consultancy, Swinford, Co Mayo, designed the shed with the assistance of Shaun and applied for TAMS aid for the build. Construction began with the tank being dug out and poured in the autumn of 2021.
The new shed
The internal dimensions of the tank are 2.4m depth, 4.1m width and 21.9m length, to give a storage capacity of 215.5m³ or 47,403 gallons. When 200mm of freeboard is taken into consideration, there is 197.53m³ slurry capacity. At a requirement of 18 weeks storage in Co Offaly and 0.29m³ required per suckler cow per week, the tank has the necessary capacity for just shy of 38 cows.
There are external agitation points at either end of the tank.
The slatted pens are 4.8m x 5.1m, with a 4.4m (14ft 6in) slat installed with toe space to the front of the pens. At a requirement of 3m² lying space per cow, each pen can fit eight cows.
A feeding space of 0.6m is required per cow, so the standard 4.8m bays that we have are a perfect fit for these eight cows. Pens are fitted with Easyfix rubber slat mats.
To the rear of the slatted pens is a 7.1m deep straw-bedded lie-back area. This area will be used for an array of purposes:
There is a line of barriers with a roofed canopy to the back of the pen to allow for independent feeding if required. Shaun will also have the option of raising the barriers to allow sheep to feed in the space between the stub wall and the barrier.
All centre posts in the lie-back are removable for ease of cleaning out, with a 75mm x 75mm effluent channel at each doorway directing soiled water from the lie-back to the slatted tank.
Shaun wanted to create ease of access to the shed for cleaning out and moving stock to and from the shed to the handling unit or other buildings.
An unsheeted gate and a sheeted door are located at either end, along with a short wall. There is a 2.5m canopy extending out both sides of the length of the shed, with the side facing the prevailing wind sheltered by an existing slatted shed.
All work was completed to TAMS specification, with a breakdown of gross costs and the net cost of the shed to Tullamore Farm in Tables 1 and 2.
When we took over the lease of Tullamore Farm, it was agreed with the landowners, the Grogan family, that all investments in infrastructure would see a 40% contribution from them on net costs.
This is a unique position that makes the building of this shed a much more viable option for us. Evergreen Construction Ltd supplied and erected the shed, Banagher Concrete supplied the slats, Easyfix supplied rubber matting, while all barriers, drinkers and the calving gate were supplied by Condon Engineering.
When we take into consideration the cost of the rented accommodation at €4,000 per annum, if we were to continue this for the remaining nine winters, we would have €36,000 handed over in rent.
If we consider the time spent by Shaun travelling to and from the rented shed, drawing of bales, slurry etc, the new shed is a more financially viable option.