Dairy management: Time to get winter ready and get that cubicle house in order

When it comes to getting winter ready, thoughts should turn to getting the cubicle shed in order.

There has been a noticeable change in the weather over the last while, with farms on heavy soils finding ground conditions deteriorating very quickly.

Regardless of what ground conditions are like on your farm, now is the time to catch up on farm maintenance and repairs.

Leaving it last minute to make repairs should be avoided because with the way the weather is changing, housing could come sooner than expected.

Cubicles

Before even thinking about cleaning the cubicle shed, farmers should make sure that they have enough cubicles. Each cow needs their own cubicle.

It is important to make sure that cubicles are clean. If it’s a case where the cubicles haven’t been touched since the cows were let out, then the power washer should be dusted off and brought back into action.

Keeping cows’ udders clean is of vital importance to reduce the risk of infection, so it’s vital that cubicle beds are cleaned and disinfected. Also, any damaged mats should be replaced.

Any cubicles that are broken or loose should be repaired or replaced in order to make sure that cows are able to lie correctly.

Cubicles should be cleaned and disinfected before cows are housed

Scrapers

After making sure that you have enough space for your cows and that the cubicles are in good condition and clean, the next job should be to make sure that the scrapers in the shed are working properly before the cows are housed.

Precious time can be taken up trying to get scrapers going, so it’s best to make sure that they are working properly. The last thing you want to be doing is running down the passageway with a hand scraper.

Scrapers should be turned on prior to housing to make sure that they are working

Slats

One thing that can be put on the long finger to check and forgotten about, is the condition of slats in a shed. It is thought that slats have a lasting life of 20-25 years.

However, farmers should be checking the condition of their slats before winter housing every year.

For many dairy farms, especially those that have expanded or are new entrants, a new cubicle shed will probably have only recently been built, so the slats in these units should be fine; however, it is no harm to check regardless for any damage.

Older cubicle houses that were built 10-20 years ago should be checked thoroughly for any signs of cracks or chips in the concrete.

Slats should be checked regularly for any signs of damage

Ventilation

A key factor in preventing animal health problems in housing facilities is good airflow in and out of the shed.

Farmers should make sure that the air inlets and outlets are big enough and not blocked up. If changes have to be made to ensure adequate airflow is circulating throughout the shed, then that should be done now.

The last thing farmers want is a stuffy shed or, on the flip side, a draft coming through the shed.

In either case, if the shed is too stuffy, alterations will need to be made to increase airflow throughout the shed, while if it’s a case that there is a draft, an affordable option to prevent this problem is to put up a windbreaker.

An airy shed will reduce the risk of disease outbreak

What else?

Make sure to empty out and clean the water troughs in the shed, so that the cows have access to fresh, clean water.

Also, make sure to have a supply of lime to shake on the cubicles to help prevent the cows picking up any infections and, if not already got, it’s no harm to get a hold of straw which will be used throughout the calving season.

Finally, as we all know, the weather in Ireland can change in an instant. Many farmers will be milking their cows into the month of December, so to avoid any problems at milking time, for instance, if a storm occurs and there is a power outage, it is handy to have a generator on-farm to help you get the cows milked.