Winter preparation of animal shelters
Preparing animal housing for winter is not a job most farmers enjoy doing, mainly because it means the animals will soon be housed.
The housing season is fast approaching on the farms and it is now a relatively quiet time of year for most herds calving in the spring.
Likewise, it is calm on most fall calving herds where the calving season has not yet started.
This time of year gives farmers a good opportunity to prepare the environment in which their cows will spend the housing period.
Good hygiene standards should be maintained throughout the year in the milking parlor and stall sheds to prevent the spread of mastitis.
You should make an assessment of the barns in which the cows will be housed and make a list of any repairs / improvements that may be needed.
Moisture entering the shed through a hole in the roof can make it more difficult to keep cabins clean, which can increase mastitis cases during the dry season.
Animal Health Ireland (AHI) has developed a checklist to help prepare sheds for winter:
- Pressure wash and disinfect cubicles, calving and feeding areas;
- Do you have enough stalls (at least one per cow)? Can we find suitable alternative housing solutions? If not, should you look for other accommodation for some cows? ;
- Maintain automatic scrapers and check if there are any areas that could benefit from installing a new scraper? ;
- Repair leaking drinkers, broken cabins, damaged carpets or broken gutters;
- Are all drains working? Are new or additional drains needed in areas where water or mud collects and does not escape freely?
- Check that all lights are working inside and outside the barns to make it easier and safer to move and watch the cows;
- Maintenance – do you need to replace barriers or repair power barriers or other areas of the shed? Currently there is a delay in obtaining building materials, so you may need to plan well in advance;
- Make a list of items that need to be ordered – lime, pre-calving minerals, teat sealer, vaccines – again, there can be delays for a variety of reasons, so avoid leaving this to the last minute.