Longford Leader Farming: Maintenance in farmyards before housing

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Farming

Are there maintenance jobs or improvements that could be made around your farmyard to make life this winter?

Are there maintenance jobs or improvements that could be made around your farmyard to make life this winter? A good starting point would be making a list of what’s wrong or needing improvement.

It might be helpful to think in terms of what frustrates you or others working in the farmyard. It may be as simple as having more hanging gates or barriers so that stock can be moved efficiently around the yard, which also reduces stress and injury to animals.

Improved profitability

Apart from reducing stress doing regular maintenance and improvement to the farmyard will also improve profitability. Buildings are expensive assets and they will have a greatly reduced lifespan if not properly maintained.

For example minimising the contact between muck and steel to reduce corrosion and painting the base of stanchions and cubicles will prolong their life. Many farmers have found that overcrowding and inadequate facilities have a big impact on animal performance and profitability.

There is a realisation that more can be made with less, so keeping less stock can increase profitability.

Many neck rails and feed barriers on farms need adjustment. They often can be bent and need repair. The boards under feed barriers may also need to be repaired or replaced.

Fixing the problem is not enough you must determine the cause and see whether it can be prevented from happening again.

For example cows struggling to reach feed because the neck rail is too low at 44 inches above cow standing level.

Beware of anything that can cause injury to animals such as protruding gates. For example a gate that closes off a cubicle cross over but it can become a hazard when open. An extendable gate or a gate that slides up and down may work well here.

Time to check slats

The design lifespan of most shed components done to grant specification is at least 20 years. Intensive use, slurry reaching the slats in most years, stocking with bulls etc. will shorten the lifespan of slats.

On the other hand slats in open yards (where corrosive gases can more readily escape) can last longer. Slats and manhole covers need to be replaced before they fail. It is important that they are checked each year.

Manhole covers need to be checked after every use: check for any damage, and that they are lying down or have been put back properly. Power hose out the slatted shed completely and use the hose to clean the sides of the slats as far as possible.
Examine the entire floor (but especially the centre of the slats) for sagging, cracking, rust staining and spalling of concrete (breaking of layers or pieces of concrete from the surface edges). The placing of a straight edge across the centre of the slats will indicate which slats have sagged.

Check for longitudinal cracks along the sides of the slats (about 4 to 5cm up from the bottom of the slat). If present use a fork to push at the crack to see if the concrete at the bottom of the slat comes away. It will be easier to see this if the slurry is about a metre from the top. If any concrete comes away from the bottom of any slats they all need to be replaced.

Smooth yard and slats

Slipping can cause serious injuries to animals. Pay particular attention to the condition of surfaces in collecting yards, holding and feeding areas. Here animals crowd and push each other as they cannot get out of the way. Smooth surfaces and broken edges can lead to falls or damaged hooves.

Slippery surfaces will potentially reduce thrive/milk yield and increase stress levels. Concrete grooving, sand blasting or overlaying with slat mats are all ways to sort the problem. Grooving should be done along the length of slats and not across the width. Grooving across slats tends to break off the edges, which increases the risk of lameness.

Tips on building maintenance summary

· Clean out all buildings

· Paint/Oil all steel work subject to corrosion

· Fix leaks in drinking water systems and install cut off valves to reduce impact of frost etc.

· Repair or improve yard surfaces and livestock feed barriers

· Clean out all gutters and repair or replace damaged gutters and downpipes

· Cleaning lamps/lights and replacing tubes; replacing translucent roof lights with new sheets that have safety grids

· Securing mats and ensuring that sliding doors are moving freely and are securely attached.

Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021), Roscommon Town (Tel: 090 6626166) and Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160), You can find us online at on Facebook @Teagasc roscommonlongford and twitter @teagascRNLD.