This week’s Buildings Focus saw Agriland make the trip to south Co. Tipperary to check out a 27-year-old silage slab that has been converted into a storage shed.

The converted shed can be found on the farm of Michael and Pat Murphy, a father-and-son team that operates a dairy calf-to-weanling system.

The duo run 120 dairy-bred calves, which are now yearlings, on 60ac.

The once dairy and suckler farm has seen other building work take place in recent years, with a new four-bay slatted unit constructed just five years ago.

Speaking to Agriland on their farm, Pat Murphy said: “We have been an ever-evolving farm here. My father milked 40-50 cows up to 2005 and then we moved into sucklers after that before changing to what we operate today, which is a dairy calf-to-weanling system.

“It suits us as we both work off-farm; my father part-time and myself full-time.

“We had the farm set up nicely for how we run it now and had been able to make full use of all the sheds we had for the dairy cows and then the sucklers,” he said.

“However, one area of the yard that wasn’t being used to its full potential was the silage pit which was built 27-years ago, but hasn’t been used for its main purpose in 15 years.

“When we had the dairy cows, the pit was ideal and worked well, but when we moved to the sucklers and then eventually onto the calf-to weanling system, we ended up having a lot of waste from the pit and decided to make round bales of silage instead.

“So we used to just store the bales on the silage slab but it was a waste really and as such, we decided last year that we would just store the silages bales to the back of the yard and convert the silage slab into a storage shed.”

Pat Murphy

Design

Pat knew what he wanted from the outset and so, he got in touch with Aidan Kelly of Agri Design and Planning Solutions who took if from there and drew up the drawings of the storage shed.

The original silage slab was kept intact and further extended to six bays at 4.8m/bay, rather than the four and half bays the original silage pit was.

The shed itself measures 6.9m to the apex and just over 5m to the eves.

Design source: ADPS

It measures 28.8m long – with each of the six bays measuring 4.8m – and 12.56m wide.

The storage shed

The construction of the shed took a mere three days to complete, which involved standing the girders and sheeting the shed.

Girders were bolted onto the existing walls of the shed while at the front of the shed they were stood up from the ground, for a newly built bay-and-a-half (an extension).

Pat wanted to make better use of the silage slab rather than use it as a place to stack bales of silage for the winter, and had a few ideas of how.

Storage space for bales of silage wasn’t an issue in the yard, with ample space to the side of the new storage shed available for bale storage.

However, there was no shed space on the farm prior to the construction of the new storage shed for bales of hay. Pat plans on making some for his second cut this summer.

Due to the sheer size of the shed, Pat won’t have an issue fitting a few-hundred hay bales into the shed for the coming winter.

Although, despite storing hay being the main use of the shed this coming winter, up until now it has been used to store machinery on the farm.

And as such, a huge emphasis was placed on security when designing and constructing the shed.

In the image below (left) you can see the skylights on the side of the shed only come halfway down on the side sheeting, while on the other side (right image), the skylights seen span the entire length, from the eaves to the top of the precast wall.

This is because on the side where the translucent sheeting only comes down halfway from the eaves, there is a mound of soil on the other side of the wall that was used as a ramp for a tractor/loader to bring up tyres to leave on top of the silage pit.

Because of how easy it would be to cut an opening through the translucent sheeting, coupled by the fact that the heap of soil at the side of the shed is level with the height of the wall of the shed, it would leave it easy for intruders to break into the shed.

Therefore, by having only having half the amount of translucent sheeting coming down the side of the shed, it makes breaking into the shed much more difficult to do.

Furthermore, a roller door, sourced from Autoroller, was installed at the entrance of the shed to further increase security. A sliding door was also installed at the entrance, simply because it was included in the price of the shed.

As with any silage pit, a drainage channel is incorporated. It was decided that it would stay, as Pat said that the day could come that it could be set up and used to house cattle.

The drainage channel is connected up to the slatted tank on the other side of the yard.

If they wanted, they could block off an area of the shed and use it as workshop if needed.

The shed was also fitted with light-emitting diode (LED) lights that brighten up the shed considerably more – even during the daytime.

Outside, at the front of the shed on one side, the precast wall was extended. The reason for extending the wall and indeed the concrete surface was so that the Murphys could tip a load of beet there, which they would use to feed their cattle during the winter months.

Pat said that it was going to be wasted space otherwise.

Cost

Having used up the money from the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II) for their slatted shed built in 2017, Michael and Pat had to fork up the money for the storage shed themselves.

The cost of converting the silage slab to a storage shed is standing to the Murphys at €47,000 (including VAT).

O’Dwyer steel erected the shed, Donal Casey completed the concrete work and Michael Mulcahy carried out the electrical work.

Speaking about the decision to make better use of the silage slab, Pat said: “We are very happy with the decision we made.

“We no longer have a silage pit that was being wasted. We have a shed there now that we can use for multiple purposes and we got it completed last year before the price of materials skyrocketed – so we are very happy we have it now and that we can make use of it.”

The four-bay slatted unit

As mentioned previously, the Murphys built a four-bay slatted unit in 2017. Up until then, they had been relying on the original cubicle shed built on the farm as their main accommodation.

The four-bay slatted unit now houses the extra calves bought in for, predominatly, their first and only winter on the farm, although some calves last year stayed for an extra winter.

The Murphys designed the shed so that they could feed from both sides of the pens. An existing open 6ft tank was already there and it was extended to be 9ft deep.

At the back of the shed a crush was installed, with a stepped walkway for Pat and his father, or a vet, to use to handle cattle with ease.

This walkway is enclosed by the crush on one side, but also from the side which leads into the inner feeding passageway, which means cattle can’t come up behind anyone who is handling cattle in the crush, thus increasing safety.

Each pen can open up out to the inner feeding passageway and run down to where cattle enter the crush, an area which doubles up as feeding area normally, but also as a mini collecting yard for when cattle are going through the crush.

At a time when silage season is in full swing and in general, when working with cattle, there was a nice reminder (below) on the back wall of the shed serving the crush that should always be kept in mind.