Saturday 2 February, 2013
When we bought our first two weaned calves in autumn 2010, we housed them in the old byre. It’s fine for two beasts, but I wouldn’t want to put any more than two in there as it’s a bit dark and the ventilation is not up to modern day standards. We do leave the door open (with a gate inside :-)), and the door through to the looseboxes, which helps.
In 2011, we had a concrete floor put down on one quarter of the barn, about 31 square metres, with half height block walls on three sides. I used this for lambing last year but found that the wind and rain blew in, if the wind was in the “wrong” direction.
Earlier this year, Dan and John put up Yorkshire boarding on the two external sides, which has helped enormously, and since December, we’ve had three cattle in there, with two in the byre. The combinations have varied, as you may know from previous diary entries.
Although it’s only the end of January, I’m already thinking about next winter and how we will house the cattle then. If the calves due in mid-June are fine, we’ll have seven beasts going in to winter 2013/14:
- Storm, our 2012 bull;
- George, our 2012 bullock;
- Breeze and Blizzard, our cows plus their 2013 calves;
- and Annie, our 2012 heifer, who will hopefully (along with Breeze and Blizzard) be in calf.
It seems sensible to put Storm and George in the byre. That leaves me five to house in the barn – and, based on Soil Association space standards – I need a minimum of 8.7m² per beast (350 – 500kg), of which 5m² must be bedded and undercover. The other 3.7m² can be outside. So our current barn area isn’t really big enough.
In the longer term, the barn will be divided as follows – ¼ wood store, ¼ hay / straw storage, ½ livestock housing. At the moment about half is wood store – but I’ll get it cut and stacked this summer, hopefully.
If money was no object, I’d be able to get all of the barn done now but unless the Lottery comes up some time between now and October, we’ll be doing it in stages – and it’s the “future proofing” that’s hard because I don’t want to have to undo any work already done to do the next bit.
At the moment, I’m running a hose from the feed store for water, but I’m minded to site one or two IBCs somewhere around the barn to collect rainwater. Not sure where, or how the “plumbing” will work though.
Current thought is to extend the barn out front by 5m, giving us another 22.5m², which would be enough for six cattle, more if some were calves. We did think about leaving it unroofed, but when I was telling a farming friend, he said he didn’t think it was such a good idea as we’d end up “scraping up 4” of slurry every couple of days”. He said that they had tried similar and it hadn’t been successful. So a roof is part of the plan again.
I also need to give some thought to how we’ll feed the cattle. Being Shetlands, we don’t feed any concentrates, apart from when we’re halter training. The “outside” area won’t be big enough to hold a ring feeder for big bales – and anyway, I’m not sure that I’d be that confident with the tractor. :-(
So I’m looking at tombstone or some other barriers as a possibility. At the moment we use wheeled sheep hay racks – a 10ft one seems fine for three cattle, so I suppose I could just use two of them fitted into the perimeter fence. I’d also be able to use them for sheep and they have lids to protect the forage. Hmmm, that’s an idea.
OK, off for a look outside now – thanks for letting me run ideas past you – comments and suggestions welcome. :-)