This week’s buildings feature comes from the suckler heartland of the west of Ireland, specifically the county of Clare. Renowned for its high-quality weanlings and the tradition of outwintering in the Burren regions, the county contains some quality suckler sheds as have been previously featured in the Irish Farmers Journal.

Dermot O’Sullivan is operating a suckler to weanling and trailer sales business outside Labasheeda, Co Clare.

Dermot, who is originally from an equestrian background, entered suckler farming two years ago, as well as selling German-made Bockmann trailers.

With no wintering accommodation on the farm, Dermot applied for TAMS aid for a shed to house his growing suckler herd. An application was made in autumn 2021 with approval granted in December.

The final bay on one side is suspended over the tank, functioning as a creep and calving area.

Dermot tasked local builder Declan Fennell with completing a new TAMS-spec suckler shed for his herd. Work began in February 2022 with the project completed in June.

Slurry storage and cubicles

The shed was constructed on a new site, with site clearance the first port of call. Two tanks run underneath the shed split by a 5.5m central feed passage.

The crush has lighting, power and a semi-automatic skulling gate fitted.

The tanks are 4.5m wide, 2.4m deep and total 17.4m in length with agitation points at each end of the shed.

Total slurry capacity in the shed is approximately 355m³ or 78,000 gallons, including a 10% buffer. The slurry storage available is sufficient for 60 suckler cows over an 18-week period. On one side of the shed, Dermot has suspended one bay of the tank to operate as a calf creep.

Declan Fennell manufactures slats to a CE standard, with a 14ft 6in slat installed on the tanks for Dermot.

"Coming from an equestrian background, cow comfort was extremely important in building this shed,’’ explains Dermot.

A total of 24 cubicles are fitted; 16 on one side and eight on the other. On the left-hand side of the shed when entering, a bank of 12 cubicles runs along the shed wall, with a further four cubicles in the final bay.

This area will be used to house early spring-calving cows over the winter.

Staying true to his focus on optimising cow comfort, Dermot chose to install Easifix Juno mattresses for the cows. “If you lift up the mattress, you can see the cushioning underneath. They are a super soft and comfortable cubicle.’’

The water troughs are fitted with rump bars for added protection.

Across the passageway, Dermot has installed eight cubicles running along the wall in two bays of the shed, with his plan being to use this for freshly calved cows.

Cows can easily be moved from the dry bedded area at the rear without having to walk cows through the feed passage.

The dry bedded area at the back of the shed will operate as a creep/calving area, with access for calves through two creep gates.

A Condon Engineering calving gate divides the pens, with both pens fitted with their own drinkers and doorways to allow for ease of cleaning out.

Condon barriers, gates and drinkers were used throughout the shed, with rump bars fitted to water troughs to help prevent any damage.

Handling unit

Running along the outer wall of the shed, Dermot has installed a handling area with a crush and semi-automatic head locking gate, again supplied by Condon.

Lighting and power have been installed above the crush to allow tasks to be carried out at night, if required.

The Easi-Fix Juno mattress was installed which comes complete with a brisket board moulded into it.

Hanging gates

Posts have been installed at the front of the shed, with Dermot planning on hanging gates to allow cattle to exit the crush at the front and be drafted back in to the shed, making cattle handling a one-person operation.

A Condon Engineering calving gate was fitted dividing the dry-bedded area in two.

The shed itself is finished to TAMS-spec, with all structural steel hot dip galvanised.


Cement fibre sheeting was installed on the roof, with 0.6mm vented sheeting used on the sides. X-bracing was used in the roof structure, while all skylights fitted are reinforced with a rebar cage underneath.


Dermot availed of TAMS aid when constructing the shed. The total cost of the project came to €92,000 plus VAT. With Dermot availing of a 40% grant, the shed has a net cost to Dermot of €60,000 when VAT and grant aid is claimed back.

‘’I’m extremely happy with the shed. Ideally, I would have liked to have built a four-bay double, to allow me to hold additional youngstock over the winter, but budget dictated a three-bay. The project was completed very quickly. Declan is a one-stop shop, supplying and fitting everything,’’ stated Dermot.

Cheap retrofits can be done to any handling unit

It’s unusual to see cubicles in a suckler shed, but the cows were presented in spotless condition, keeping udders clean for suckling calves. Dermot opted for top-of-the-range mattresses, but lesser-quality cubicles will suffice.

“There are several nice features in this shed, but simple things such as including power and good lighting to the outside crush area are cheap retrofits that can be done to any handling unit to make handling stock safer and more efficient.