Preparing animal housing for winter is a crucial task for farmers, although it may not be their favorite job as it signals the start of the housed period for the animals.
With the housed period fast approaching for most spring-calving herds, this time of year offers a relatively quiet period for farmers.
Similarly, autumn-calving herds are currently enjoying a calm season as their calving period has not yet commenced.
This is the perfect time for farmers to prepare the environment where their cows will spend the housed period. Maintaining good hygiene standards in the milking parlour and cubicle sheds throughout the year is essential to prevent the spread of mastitis.
As part of the winter preparation, it is important to thoroughly assess the sheds that will house the cows and create a list of any necessary repairs or upgrades.
Dampness in the shed caused by a roof hole can make cubicle cleaning more challenging, leading to an increase in mastitis cases during the dry period.
Animal Health Ireland (AHI) has developed a helpful checklist to assist in getting sheds winter-ready:
- Powerwash and disinfect cubicles, calving and feeding areas;
- Ensure there are enough cubicles (at least one per cow) or make suitable alternative housing arrangements. Consider finding alternative accommodation for some cows if needed;
- Service automatic scrapers and consider fitting new scrapers in areas that would benefit;
- Repair any leaking water troughs, broken cubicles, damaged mats, or broken gutters;
- Ensure all drains are working correctly and consider adding new or additional drains in areas where water or muck tends to accumulate;
- Check all lights inside and outside the sheds to improve visibility and cow monitoring;
- Assess maintenance needs, including gate replacements, feeding barrier repairs, or other shed areas that require attention. Plan ahead for material delays;
- Create a list of items that need to be ordered, such as lime, pre-calving minerals, teat sealer, and vaccines, to avoid last-minute delays.