14 top tips to ensure your winter housing is safe

With winter on the way; it’s time to carry out a last minute check on winter housing for livestock.

Keep safety first in mind when checking over winter housing.

Remember: farm maintenance is a driver of farm efficiency, saves time and labour. Most importantly, it helps prevent farm accidents.

Go through the checklist below and see what needs to be done:

  1. Inspect slatted area for damaged/cracked/sagging slats. Replace where necessary. Likewise, cracked/uneven concrete areas should be replaced.
  2. Check feed barriers are secure and all bolts and locks are in working order.
  3. Water bowls/piping needs to be inspected for any leaks and make sure that they are fixed securely to walls or gates. Clean out and disinfect all water bowls. Water piping above ground needs to be lagged against frost.
  4. Ensure that all doors and gates are hanging safely and can be fastened securely. Old or broken fixtures should be repaired or replaced.
  5. Slat mats should be checked to ensure they all still remain secured to floors and slats.
  6. Grease self-locking barriers and sliding doors so that they run smoothly.
  7. Creep gates should be inspected to make sure they can be opened and closed when needed.
  8. All slurry agitation points must be securely covered and not easily opened.
  9. Ensure that your calving gate is in good working order and safely secured. Also have a look at your calving jack to see if it is ok.
  10. Inspect all electrical fittings and replace any that are broken/damaged if required. Don’t risk substandard fittings; they could be lethal to both man and animal.
  11. Look at all gutters and downpipes to ensure they are not blocked and won’t cause unwanted flooding of sheds/tanks over the winter.
  12. Plastic covers on Fluorescent roof lights should be cleaned where possible and damaged ones replaced. Clean lighting throws out more light.
  13. Ensure all floodlights and halogen lamps, both inside and outside, are in full working order. Clean glass and replace bulbs where necessary.
  14. Examine barriers, bars and safety area in bull pens to see that all is in order. Make a list of repairs needed and get them done. Don’t delay. Do it today.

Calving Housing

Hygiene is critical in calving boxes/area. Every effort is needed to prevent the build-up of infection and disease.

Thoroughly clean out, power wash and disinfect all calving boxes/ calving area. Use a strong disinfectant; this prevents a build-up of harmful micro-organisms such as Cryptosporidium.

If there is a history of scour/disease/infection in the calving area, consult your vet on what specialised disinfectant to use.

If there are calving cameras present in your suckler unit, inspect cameras to ensure they are working. Clean lenses, inspect wiring, view screen and picture focus.

Can the cameras be connected to your mobile phone? Use modern technology to make life easier at calving time.

Creep Pens

Likewise, hygiene is hugely important here. Remove all farmyard manure, old straw etc. Clean whole area, power wash and disinfect with a strong disinfectant.

When the creep pens are dry, sprinkle the entire creep area with hydrated lime. This will act as an additional disinfectant.

Wear gloves and protect eyes when handling lime. Use plenty of straw, spread across the creep area when calves begin to use it.

Ensure to have enough straw in store to cover the entire calving period. Other sheds for older stock need to be cleared out and disinfected if necessary.

Make sure your sheds are safe and sound for you and your stock.

By Anthony O’Connor, Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit.

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