Last week Agriland made the trip to just outside Mallow in Co. Cork to speak to retired dairy farmer and now drystock farmer Sean Kelly about his new drystock unit.
The Cork man had been milking cows all his life, and was given the responsibility of running his family’s farm at the tender age of 13 when his father became ill.
Ever since then, he had grown the farm to what it is today and last year handed the reins over to his son who is milking 94 cows currently.
Sean said that when people retire some decide to maybe buy a house over in Tenerife and enjoy their retirement or pick up new interests or hobbies; however, that didn’t interest him at all. Instead, he went about setting up a small part-time suckler and sheep enterprise a stone throws away from where his son is milking.
Speaking to Agriland outside his new drystock shed, Sean said: “I handed over the reins of the dairy farm to my son at the start of last year.
“I said by the time I reached 70 years of age I was going to call a halt to milking cows; however, even though I said I was finished milking, I could never walk away from farming altogether as it’s been all I’ve known my entire life.
“Everyone has a different idea of how they want to retire like maybe buying a holiday home in Tenerife say or just taking it easy at home and pick up some new interests or hobbies, but I just wanted to stay farming.
“So I kept 17 acres on an outblock of land I had in order for me to continue farming on my own and keep a few pedigree Angus cows, commercial cattle and 20 ewes.
“There were no sheds on the outblock of land so I set about last year building an all in one shed that would house all my stock and make it simple for me to feed my stock and carry out any jobs that need to be done without having to bring in help.”
Sean spoke to O’Dwyer Steel who put together drawings of the shed that they felt might suit what the Cork man wanted and it ended up exactly what he was looking for.
The design of the shed includes three single bays either side of a passageway going through the middle of the shed.
On one side of the shed is where the cattle are housed and on the other side is where you will find the sheep.
Looking at the design of the shed in more detail, it measures 14.3m long and 14.46m wide. The shed stands 5.29m to the apex and 3.67m to the eves, with the precast concrete walls of the shed standing 2.03m high.
Four bays of the shed measure 4.75m long and 5.06m wide, while the two middle bays measure 4.8m long and 5.06m wide.
The feeding passageway going through the middle of the 6 bays, three either side of the passageway, measures 4.34m wide and 14.3m wide.
The cattle accommodation side of the shed consists of two bays of slats and one dry pen which is used for calving cows. While on the other side where the sheep are housed consists of three bays of a solid concrete floor.
Features of the shed
The new shed, which was completed at the end of December 2021, gives Sean many options.
Currently, suckler cows, a few breeding heifers and bullocks along with 20 ewes reside in the shed. Sean could operate a number of different systems within the shed if he wanted to, for example if he wanted to finish cattle or store lambs, along with what he already operates.
Looking at the features of the shed, there’s one main entrance to the shed, which is into the main feeding passageway that serves the six pens.
On the left hand side of the shed is where the cattle are housed and consist of a mix of pedigree Angus cows and breeding heifers along with some bullocks.
This side of the shed consists of three pens, with two of these slatted and the other one, at top end of the shed being a dry pen used for calving cows as already mentioned.
The two pens of slats are covered in mats sourced from Dairygold. Two small water drinkers were installed to serve each of the three pens.
The calving pen has a calving gate fitted which is actually hung where usually a feed barrier would be fitted along. Headlocking gates were installed in the middle pen of the shed, with a standard diagonal feed barrier hung across the other slatted pen.
The gates of each of the pens can be closed to the back of the wall to allow access across each of the three pens if Sean ever wanted to do so.
Cattle can exit the shed at the front of the shed where a 6-bar gate can be found going across the side of the top pen to the front of the shed.
To prevent a draught, a sliding door can come across where this gate is hung.
The centre passageway of the shed, at the time of Agriland’s visit was being made use of for not only to push in silage and feed the cattle and sheep from but individual lambing pens were also set up at the back of the shed.
While, as mentioned, on the other side of the feeding passageway is three dry pens for the sheep to be housed.
Sean used to keep ewes along his dairy cows but got out of ewes 15 years ago before buying 20 again last year when he set up his own smaller scale drystock enterprise.
Like on the other side of the shed, two water trough were installed to serve the the three pens.
Horizontal feed rail barriers that can be height adjusted were installed across the three pens, with stockboarding fitted at the bottom of each to prevent silage being pulled into the pens.
Each of the three pens can be accessed from the feeding passageway where a small access gate is fitted at the front of the pens to one side of the feed barriers.
Sean has set up individual pens at the back of one of the pens as well as in the feed passageway.
Similar to the cattle side of the shed, at the front of the sheep side of the shed, a gate is hung to allow sheep in and out the shed. This gives Sean two ways of letting sheep out of the pens, as they can also exit out through the small access gates into the feeding passageway either.
Unlike the other side of the shed where a sliding door comes across the side of the first slatted pen into the shed, a roller door comes down the side of the first pen on the sheep side of the shed.
One interesting feature of the shed is the galvanised sheeting at both sides of the shed is sloping out from the precast walls to allow for increased air flow in and out of the shed.
Sean opted for this over going with vented sheeting, spaced or Yorkshire boarding to help with the circulation of air in the shed.
The fact air is able to circulate in and out the shed from three points at the front of the shed is also a help in creating an airy but draught free environment.
Furthermore, six cameras were installed inside the shed, with three fitted at both the front and back of the shed and lights installed both inside and outside the shed.
A safety feature in the shed is that of a a hook fitted high up onto one of the girders. Sean does often have his grandchildren up helping him on the farm and to avoid any potential injuries he keeps the silage fork out of reach from his grandchildren and anything else that might cause harm.
Looking at the cost of the shed, it is standing to Sean at €53,000 including VAT. Sean completed the project without the aid of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II).
Dermot Curtain dug out the tanks, while Brian Quinn completed all the concrete work. O’Dwyer Steel designed and erected the shed. O’Donovan Engineering kitted out the entire inside of the shed. While Denis Cronin did all the electrical work.
Speaking about his decision to build the shed, Sean said: “I’m very happy with how it turned out. It’s great now I have comfort now that I can house all my stock under the one roof and I have loads of options with it in terms of what I could do with it.
“It’s great to be able to come up and feed the cattle and sheep without any hassle and enjoy it. It’s great also for my grandkids, they love coming up here with me as the ewes are lambing and giving me a helping hand.
“I still help out my son on the dairy farm, particularly now feeding calves, but I’m delighted to be able to come up here and do a bit for myself, I have a soft spot for the pedigrees and also for the sheep, so overall I’m very happy with how it’s all turned out.”