For this week’s Buildings Focus, Agriland made the trip to Tubber in Co. Offaly to check out a new suckler unit on the farm of Ken Fox.

Ken, alongside his father Declan, wife and three kids runs a herd of 25 sucklers alongside buying in some dairy-bred calves at springtime.

The father-and-son team, up until this year, had been outwintering their suckler cows, with any drystock housed in a dry shed.

Looking to streamline the farm and have a shed that would house all of the stock on the farm, Ken, back in 2020, started to do some research into building a new shed which came to completion in spring just gone.

Ken Fox

Speaking to Agriland on his farm in the Faithful County, Ken said: “My father works full-time on the farm and I work-full time off farm.

“We wanted to become more efficient on how we do things, particularly on the winter-feeding side of things and just make life that bit easier for ourselves.

“We had been outwintering our cows and when they were due to calf, we’d bring them into a small dry shed we have and calve them down there.

“But having cattle out on land in winter just ruins it and the cost of putting it right again. It did work well for us in saying thatm but really wasn’t a long-term solution.

“As well as being more efficient, being able to work in a safe environment was at the forefront of our thinking and going out to a field putting in bales in a ringfeeder brings its risks that we no longer wanted to take.”

Cows and calves on the Fox’s farm


Ken took time to visit other farms and speak to friends about what would work best for him and his farm, taking on advice and ideas which he said were crucial, as it was the first shed he had ever built on the farm.

The new suckler unit was designed by Carroll Consultancy Agricultural & Business Consultants in Co. Mayo, which also completed the planning for the project.

The design includes a four-bay slatted unit with a calving/creep area and a crush against the back wall of the shed.

The building is 19.2m long and 14.9m wide. The unit stands 6.8m high to the apex and 4.4m to the eave gutters.

The concrete walls of the shed stand 2.4m high. The slatted tank is 21.9m long, 4.1m wide and 2.4m deep. Agitation points are located at either end of the tank.

Design source: Carroll Consultancy Agricultural & Business Consultants

The four slatted pens are 4.8m wide and 4.4m deep. The four pens in the calving/creep area are 4.8m wide and 4.7m deep.

The sliding doors at either end of the creep area are 4.7m wide. Two of the four pens are served with a calving gate, with a creep gate serving each of the four pens from the slatted pens.

The crush at the back of the shed is 9.7m long and 0.9m wide. The feeding passageway is 19.2m long and 5m wide and can be accessed by sliding doors at either end.

Design source: Carroll Consultancy Agricultural & Business Consultants

Feed passageway

The Foxes opted to have the entirety of the shed under one roof, which includes the feed passageway.

Just outside at the front of the shed, the yard, spanning the width of the shed, was finished with a concrete surface.

The feed passageway can be accessed through two sliding doors, one at either end of the shed.

It’s of ample width that the Foxes can store some straw in the passageway too, for when it’s need when cows are calving down next spring.

The pens and crush at the back of the shed can also be accessed through sliding doors at both ends of the shed.

This gives the Foxes ample access and room to back in a trailer to load cattle for example, as well as being able to do so in a safe environment.

Cow comfort

As the shed was intended to house the suckler cows on the farm, Ken put cow comfort as one of main priorities when building the shed.

To achieve this, he opted to put in mats in each of the four pens of slats which he sourced from Cow Comfort Ltd. (Mayo Mats).

“I just felt with having cows that it can be a long winter for them on bare concrete and felt that mats would not only give them that bit more comfort but also hopefully reduce or keep the incidences of lameness at bay,” he explained.

“I said while I was doing the shed, I’d do the four bays with mats and have it done with so I’m curious to see how I get on with them.

“I’ve heard good stories about them and when I had the cows in the shed when I was putting them through the crush, they appeared very happy on them.”

The slatted pens

Looking at the slatted pens, at the front of each of the pens, Ken went with diagonal feed barriers. Because he went with a crush at the back of the shed, he felt no need to put in headlocking barriers.

Each of the pens are divided up using a five-bar gate which can contract and swing back against the back gates of each of the pens, thus allowing Ken and Declan to let cattle have the run of two or more pens of the shed.

Ken was told he would be able to fit eight cows/pen but believes himself that seven would be a more realistic number so as to not have the pens to crammed.

Two stainless steel troughs were fitted at the back of the pens which serve the four pens, with each one being accessible to two pens.

The creep/calving area and crush

At the back of each of the slatted pens are two gates, a smaller five-bar gate than the ones dividing the slatted pens which can also be contracted as well as a creep gate.

At the back of each of the four slatted pens are dry bedded pens, two of which are served with a calving gate. At the back wall of the shed, lies a crush.

In both the end pens, a five-bar gate is hung across where the sliding door is in order to protect the door from damage. It also acts as extra security by ensuring that if the sliding door was open in some way, cattle couldn’t get out.

The gates dividing up the four dry pens can all swing back to allow for the Foxes to clean out this area after calving with ease.

A slope was incorporated into the concrete floor at the back of the shed in this dry area to allow for any runoff from the bedding to flow into the slatted tank.

The gate splitting these two pens can swing back in order to be able to walk up and down the crush uninterrupted

A major part of the design of the shed was being able to move cattle from pen to pen around the shed.

Ken wanted to be able to funnel cattle from each of the slatted pens down to the back pen of the shed to the rear of the crush and let them back out through the crush into the slatted pens again.

The only use the shed has had so far was for a Tuberculosis herd test, which Ken said worked a dream in terms of moving cattle through the crush around the shed.

The floor of the crush is stepped and below that of the floor are the concrete-floored pens. There is a point towards the front of the crush where any dung built up in the chute of the crush can flow away down through a pipe connected to the slatted tank of the shed.

The gate dividing the two middle pens can swing back, allowing Ken – or whoever is handling cattle in the crush – to walk up and down uninterrupted.

The front of the crush leads into one of two pens that the calving gate can be used in and as mentioned already, this pen can act as a loading area for cattle to be loaded onto a trailer.


The overall cost of the shed stood at €100,000 plus VAT. However, having been eligible for a grant under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS), the shed is standing to the Foxes at €60,000.

Ground first broke in November 2021 and the shed was completed in April 2022.

The excavation of the site for the shed and all the associated concrete work was carried out and completed by Farrell Concrete Ltd. in Ferbane, Co. Offaly who Ken praised for the quality of their work. The slats were sourced from Banagher Slats.

The shed was sourced and stood by a Tipperary-based agriculture shed manufacturer. All the internal fixtures, gates, barriers, water troughs, crush and calving gates came from Coyle Agri, which Ken said was very helpful.

The electrical work was carried out and completed by NES Ltd.

Speaking about the decision to go ahead and build the shed, Ken said: “It turned out very well and we are very happy with it.

“The timing of the build wasn’t ideal just with the way the price of everything shot up; however, going forward, we will have a lot more comfort and the shed gives us options.

“This will be our first winter in it so we are excited to see how it goes and really should be light and day compared to how we used to operate before.”