For this week’s Buildings Focus, Agriland made the trip to the outskirts of Kilkenny town to speak to Terry Brophy about his new beef shed.
Terry farms full time and runs 45-50 suckler cows alongside a flock of 130 ewes.
His main reason for building a new shed was space – as it was something he was tight on.
Up until last winter, the farm consisted of all dry bedded sheds, with up to 200 bales of straw used up during the winter housing period.
Furthermore, as Terry brought all his progeny to beef as well as keeping replacement heifers, it was a tight squeeze fitting all his cattle in the shed.
Lastly, slurry storage was another aspect he wanted to improve upon.
Speaking to Agriland on his farm, Terry said: “Housing space had been tight on the farm for my comfort and with that, as we have dry bedded sheds, came a huge labour input in bedding sheds.
“I’d be putting fresh straw under the cattle every second day and although I had a good system of doing it, it was time consuming and labour intensive.
“I have an open slurry tank that stores slurry from an open feeding area that has been stretched to its limit, so I also needed to look at increasing my slurry storage capacity as well.
“I suppose another driving factor behind building the new shed was the fact that I lost some ground due to the N76 road – as part of the N76 Callan Road Realignment Scheme – and cashflow from that for the land lost, along with the getting a grant gave me the confidence and push to go and build the new shed,” he added.
The new six-span slatted shed was built on idle ground beside an existing hay shed.
Terry had spoken to neighbours and seen other sheds, while also doing some research into what he felt would suit him and his farm.
He toyed with different ideas and designs and ended up going with the original design he planned from the outset.
When designing the shed, as Terry works on the farm on his own, safety and reducing risk was a big element of how the shed is laid.
He was able to get what he has today with the help of Aidan Kelly of Agri Design and Planning Solutions (ADPS), which completed the design and planning process for the new shed.
The new beef unit measures 28.8m long and nearly 15.5m wide, which includes the exterior feed passageway. It stands 7.56m high to the apex, 5.2m to the eve gutters and 5.0m to the overhang canopy.
The walls of the shed stand 2.4m high, with the slatted tank 2.75m deep, 4.7m wide and 31.9m long – with an agitation point at either end.
All six bays of the shed measure 4.8m wide and nearly 6m long.
The inner passageway at the back of the slatted pens, which can also be split up into individual pens, measures 28.8m long and 4.5m wide.
This passageway is to allow Terry feed his cattle meal at the back of the shed – with a sliding doorway at either end of the passageway.
The feeding passageway at the front of the shed measures 4.57m wide and 31.9m long. A 2.45m canopy protruding out over the feed face was also incorporated
Inside the six-bay shed
Looking at the front of the shed, an overhang covers over the feed area. Diagonal feed barriers were fitted into each pen at the front of the shed and also at the back of the pens.
Terry opted to go with a butt wall along the length of the feed face. The simple reason for this is that he pushes in feed using the front loader of the tractor and wanted a solid firm base to do just this.
At either end of the exterior passageway lies two concrete walls with hooks incorporated into them so that they can be picked up and moved using the front loader of the tractor.
The idea these is to stop silage from blowing around the corners of the shed, which was what was happening before Terry put them at either end.
Looking inside the shed, it is used to house weanlings and finishing cattle. As mentioned, it consists of six slatted bays. Fixed gates divide up each of the pens, with three tip-over troughs serving two pens each.
At the back of the slatted pens are six solid floor pens that act, in Terry’s case, as a second feeding passageway – currently.
This means that cattle can feed out from both sides of the slatted pens, with diagonal feed barriers also found this side of the pens, with generally only meal fed along this inner passageway.
Terry, using his quad and trailer, feeds meal to the cattle at the front of the shed by feeding it on top of the silage. At the other side, he uses cut-up plastic barrels to feed meal.
Originally, the plan was to have a crush at the back of the slatted pens and have it in a way that cattle could move around the shed from pen to pen, around the crush and back out the other side into the pens again.
However, Terry didn’t favour this as it would have meant he would barely be able to fit with his quad through this inner passageway to feed cattle.
Given that Terry has a perfectly fine crush down the yard, he felt it would be a waste of space and money putting in another one that would get minimal use.
This meant fixed gates were installed in each pen as mentioned, rather than having it that cattle could be moved from pen to pen within the slats.
Rather, if Terry wants to take out a sick animal say, he can close both sliding doors at either end of the shed and open up the feed barrier, which is on a wheel that swings back to the wall.
Also for testing for example, Terry said, once you have the gates down the yard set up, cattle can be let out and put back into the shed as easily, quickly and as safely as possible by simply opening up the feed barrier/gate (shown below) back to the wall and letting the cattle in or out, whatever it may be.
Terry wanted the largest pens possible and ended up buying the longest slats he could. He said that he can fit, comfortably, up to 15 weanlings in each pen and depending on size, 11-12 finishing cattle.
With the new shed, Terry didn’t limit his options when designing it.
The feeding/holding area at the back of the slatted pens can be accessed from either end of the shed through sliding doors.
Adequate space at either end of outside the shed was left for a tractor and if ever used on the farm, a tractor and diet feeder to swing in and feed cattle from within this inner feeding area of the shed.
Furthermore, to leave his options open, in three of the pens, Terry installed creep gates, with standard five-bar gates hung at the back of the slatted pens to divide up this area of the shed into three dry pens.
On the day of Agriland’s visit, Terry said he didn’t make use of them.
However, he said that if the situation arose where finished cattle had been moved on and space become free in the shed, he could move up cows and calves here and let calves use the current feeding passageway as a creep area, with the plan, if it did arise, to put mats in the back for the calves to lie on.
Speaking of mats, Terry said he is very much in two minds of whether of not to put mats on the slats in the shed.
He said: “I have spoken to farmers I know that run excellent beef systems, and I’ve heard from both sides, some use mats and others not.
“I do think there is a place for them. We used to finish bulls for nearly 25 years but we housed them on straw.
“We have only in the last few years moved to finishing steers so for now, I don’t plan on putting mats in, but it’s definitely something I’m considering. The weanlings and finishing bullocks were very content on the slats last winter so as of now, I’m happy with how it is.
“If I had bulls I would probably be looking at putting in mats alright.”
Like any grant-spec shed, vented sheeting was erected at the back and sides of the shed, with a gap from the eaves to the top of the left sheeting for air to flow in and out of.
Skylights, two/bay were also fitted. This, along with the sheer height of the shed, gives it a very inviting, airy and bright feeling.
The total cost of the shed is standing at €120,000, including VAT.
The Kilkenny native was eligible for a grant of €30,000 under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II).
This, including reclaiming VAT, is leaving the cost of the shed to Terry at €80,000.
The excavating of the site for the shed was carried out by MC Services; David Kenneally completed the concrete work;. Gerry Dalton supplied and erected the shed; Tom Trait did the electrical work; and Pat Delahunty carryied out the plumbing work.
The gates, feeding barriers and troughs were sourced from O’Donnell Engineering.
Speaking about the decision to build the shed, Terry said: “Overall, I’m very happy. It’s given me peace of mind and made life so much easier for me.
“I’ve only been in it one winter but already I have cut down my straw usage by half and only have to bed cattle that are still in the dry bedded sheds, once a week now rather than every second day.
“The shed works well and it’s set up in a way that makes handling and feeding cattle easy and efficient.
“The increased slurry storage is a big bonus and it’s not just me that’s happy with it; if you come up here when the cattle are in it, they are as quiet and content in it.
“So, yes, very happy I went ahead and built it when I did because I wouldn’t be building it this year the way the cost of everything is gone.”