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Thread: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

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    How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Hello, I have a 90 ft slurry tank in the ground covered with a 14ft 6 in slat. Been like that for 4 years and I was thinking of finishing it this year. Given that here in Ireland we would normally put a shed over that about 80 feet long (5 bays approx 16 feet), how would you design the shed. I want a lie back area for the cows behind the slats. I want calving pens behind the lie back area. I want a cattle crush on the back wall behind the lie back areas. I want one side of the shed open with a 8th or so roof overhang where the bales will be deposited. I want to be able to lock all the cows up on the slats when straw bedding the lie back areas, I want to and be able to divide the shed up to handle cows to calve and cows that have calved. I think that 7 cows per bay so 35 cows is the max I will have in there. I want to be able to access the lie back areas with tractor and loader from gable end to clean out. I want to be able to have a cows calved in the pens for a few days and be able to get them silage/meal without to much wheeling barrows etc and I want them to have access to water bowls. I have ordered a shed 80 feet long, 55 feet wide (A frame shed) plus a an 8ft overhang and a canopy on the apex to let hot air escape. So how would you lay it out? The first 8ft is overhang to cover the bales, the next 15 feet is over the slats and then you have 40ft left for a lie back for the cows, calving pens and a cattle crush. Where would you put drinkers. what kind of lights, gates, feed barriers and creep gates would you use. All advice welcome. Thanks.

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    Senior Member grassmanman's Avatar
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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Lots of questions. I'll add another. . why do you need an 8 ft overhang to cover bales? Even they get wet occassionally it doesn't really matter. Reduce overhang and add the width to the pen space.
    Put 2ft solid concrete next feeding barrier. Rubber mats on slats and keep cows in the pens until calving. Straw ly back just creates work and cost. You could divide back into cattle pens with crush along back wall. Pens with drinkers doubling as calving pens. Creep gates opening into slatted pens.

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Reducing the overhang won't add any width to the inside. Besides he's talking about an open sided shed so 8ft won't go wrong to keep driving rain off the slats.

    Why would you want a straw lie-back, though? They'll spend most of the time there and only go onto the slats to feed. You're only creating alot of work and expense. They'll be fine on the slats till they calve, especially if you're using mats

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    Senior Member grassmanman's Avatar
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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by MC130 View Post
    Reducing the overhang won't add any width to the inside. Besides he's talking about an open sided shed so 8ft won't go wrong to keep driving rain off the slats.

    Why would you want a straw lie-back, though? They'll spend most of the time there and only go onto the slats to feed. You're only creating alot of work and expense. They'll be fine on the slats till they calve, especially if you're using mats
    Agreed. What I mean is put more roof over the inside of the shed. Make sure open side faces away from prevailing wind and rain.

    I have 50 Autumn calved sucklers on slats with rubber mats and no ly back perfectly happy. Calves have bedded creep.

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Thanks Grassman and MCI for your responses. The overhang I need cos here in the west of Ireland it rains 8 months of the year. I have one shed with no overhang and its a pain in the butt watching bales of dry silage getting soaked as soon as they are opened. My worry about not having straw for the cows that are calved to lie on is that they will be very dirty and calves sucking will be sucking muck off there tits. I do have slat mats down in all my sheds and the one thing I notice is that the cattle are much dirtier than say cattle that I have in rented sheds where there are no mats. That is why I worry about letting cows lie on mats and have calves.
    I also have sheds that have 2ft of matted concrete on the edge of the tanks and there seems to be a massive build up of dung in these areas leading to cattle lying in dung and been very dirty. I have been an organic farmer so the straw bedding was mandatory but I am out of organics now and if I can get rid of my 2k straw bill then happy days. Will young calves go into the creep and leave there mothers?

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Yes, the calves will leave their mothers and lie in the creep no problem if the cows have no bedded lie-back.
    We find the cows stay fairly clean on the slats, although we don't have mats so I appreciate it might be different with them . If the calves get a good start with plenty of colostrum and are generally healthy, the odd dirty teat isn't going to do them any harm. You can get that on bedding anyway, if she happens to lie in the wrong place.

    We keep the cows on the slats till they calf then they're in an individual pen for 2/3 days, then a small group pen of 3 before going back on the slats. We don't actually have bedded creeps as such on the slats. We take a group of 3 pens and use the middle one as a joint creep with cows either side. Put a bit of straw on top of the slats for the calves and they're in there by the time we get the pen gates shut. The small group pen first is important, though. It's less of a culture shock from there to the slats and avoids alot of confusion among the calves.

    Thinking about your shed, I'd probably have a centre feed passage with calving pens either side. The row of pens behind the slats could be given over to calf creeps as calving progresses and there would be the option to combine calving pens to make larger bedded pens if required. I wouldn't be bothering with a bedded lie-back for the cows. I'd be putting one cow less in each pen after they've calved, to give the calves a bit of room to move amongst them. This will leave you with 5 cows on the other side of the shed, on bedding, but this is a useful option to have. Chances are you'll have a couple of older cows and maybe a difficult calving one, who would appreciate not having to go back on the slats.

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?


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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    I would put the crush outside the back wall with a door at each end in and out of the shed , Ive seen crushes in sheds and the steps are in the way , only taking up space for all it would be used. Make the slatted area bigger by 2ft each side , it wont collect muck . There are differant mats and some hold muck more than others , but there are some that hold no muck . if you have room in the yard I would only leave 15ft behind the slatts , then leave a 15ft passage in front of the slatts and then have a row of single calving boxs opposite the slats , cover the whole lot and you will have a nice snug shed.

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by James d geoghegan View Post
    I would put the crush outside the back wall with a door at each end in and out of the shed
    I disagree, assuming it's not a full handling system and just a crush for occasional use. The last thing you want is to be standing outside in the pi$$ing rain at 3 o'clock in the morning trying to get a calf to suck

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by GALCAM View Post
    Thanks Grassman and MCI for your responses. The overhang I need cos here in the west of Ireland it rains 8 months of the year. I have one shed with no overhang and its a pain in the butt watching bales of dry silage getting soaked as soon as they are opened. My worry about not having straw for the cows that are calved to lie on is that they will be very dirty and calves sucking will be sucking muck off there tits. I do have slat mats down in all my sheds and the one thing I notice is that the cattle are much dirtier than say cattle that I have in rented sheds where there are no mats. That is why I worry about letting cows lie on mats and have calves.
    I also have sheds that have 2ft of matted concrete on the edge of the tanks and there seems to be a massive build up of dung in these areas leading to cattle lying in dung and been very dirty. I have been an organic farmer so the straw bedding was mandatory but I am out of organics now and if I can get rid of my 2k straw bill then happy days. Will young calves go into the creep and leave there mothers?


    Calves are really happy to lie on creep area. Also a good sign that all is not well with calf if Mother is leaning over gate calling for too long

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by MC130 View Post
    I disagree, assuming it's not a full handling system and just a crush for occasional use. The last thing you want is to be standing outside in the pi$$ing rain at 3 o'clock in the morning trying to get a calf to suck
    The long crush for testing and doseing can go outside the shed , if you want to put an overhang over it you can , I have 4 calving pens here in a 4 bay shed 13 ft wide . the gate on each pen has a slot for the cow to put out her head to feed , I have a locking bar on this slot so that I can catch the cows head if I need to get a calf to suck , in one pen I have the calving gate built into the front gate as well , the way I have the calving pen done I can catch the cow in the calving gate while Im the oppisite side of the gate at all times for safety , the caving gate is welded on to the H iron piller , it is 2 ft wide , then I have the front gate of the pen hinged from the corner of the calving gate , the front gate will close right back to the wall so the cow has only one option that is to put her head out through the calving gate , then I pull a long rope to lock her head while Im behind her pushing the gate in against her , fool proof safe system .

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by GALCAM View Post
    Hello, I have a 90 ft slurry tank in the ground covered with a 14ft 6 in slat. Been like that for 4 years and I was thinking of finishing it this year. Given that here in Ireland we would normally put a shed over that about 80 feet long (5 bays approx 16 feet), how would you design the shed. I want a lie back area for the cows behind the slats. I want calving pens behind the lie back area. I want a cattle crush on the back wall behind the lie back areas. I want one side of the shed open with a 8th or so roof overhang where the bales will be deposited. I want to be able to lock all the cows up on the slats when straw bedding the lie back areas, I want to and be able to divide the shed up to handle cows to calve and cows that have calved. I think that 7 cows per bay so 35 cows is the max I will have in there. I want to be able to access the lie back areas with tractor and loader from gable end to clean out. I want to be able to have a cows calved in the pens for a few days and be able to get them silage/meal without to much wheeling barrows etc and I want them to have access to water bowls. I have ordered a shed 80 feet long, 55 feet wide (A frame shed) plus a an 8ft overhang and a canopy on the apex to let hot air escape. So how would you lay it out? The first 8ft is overhang to cover the bales, the next 15 feet is over the slats and then you have 40ft left for a lie back for the cows, calving pens and a cattle crush. Where would you put drinkers. what kind of lights, gates, feed barriers and creep gates would you use. All advice welcome. Thanks.
    Just reading your shed dimensions they are not great for safety , how do you get in to the calving pens , walk through other pens , not a great idea , here is my plan , you say you are buying a 55ft wide shad with 8 ft overhang , that is 63ft , now move the whole shed forward , leave 15ft at the back of the slats , leave 17ft over the slats , then a 15ft passage and then your calving pens oppisite your slats which will end up 14ft wide , you have your feed passage enclosed and dry and you can walk up along your calving pens in safety , you now have space out the back of the shed for your crush race and handling yard.

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by James d geoghegan View Post
    The long crush for testing and doseing can go outside the shed , if you want to put an overhang over it you can , I have 4 calving pens here in a 4 bay shed 13 ft wide . the gate on each pen has a slot for the cow to put out her head to feed , I have a locking bar on this slot so that I can catch the cows head if I need to get a calf to suck , in one pen I have the calving gate built into the front gate as well , the way I have the calving pen done I can catch the cow in the calving gate while Im the oppisite side of the gate at all times for safety , the caving gate is welded on to the H iron piller , it is 2 ft wide , then I have the front gate of the pen hinged from the corner of the calving gate , the front gate will close right back to the wall so the cow has only one option that is to put her head out through the calving gate , then I pull a long rope to lock her head while Im behind her pushing the gate in against her , fool proof safe system .
    I was kind of assuming he already had a main handling system but, yeah, that sounds like a good set-up you have there.
    Our handling system is adjacent to the calving pens anyway so we just use it.

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Why not have the cows in cubicles, then have a bedded calf creep area and a few calving pens ? Cows will be cleaner than slats and use no straw if you use mattresses.
    Come and stay in the Welsh hills, http://www.holidaycambriancoast.co.uk/

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Thanks for all the replies. It interesting how other people think of laying out something. I would never have thought of having a passage in the middle of the shed but its an option and of having calving pens the other side of it. I dont have a main handling yard. All of my existing sheds incorporate a crush so that there is no need to move cattle out of the shed. I like that idea as all work, testing, dosing etc is undercover. Most sheds in my area incorporate a crush so that it is a one man job to handle cattle and they cannot get out of the shed no matter how high they jump. Currently if I think a cow is going to calf while Im gone I can let her off the slats down on the lie back area and if she calves then its on straw and there is more place for her there and when I get back if she has calved or if she is definitely going to calve I move her into a calving pen.
    One of you made the comment about having to go through the lie back area to get to the calving pens and that is quite correct. Its certainly not the safest as I keep the bull in with my cows and I have 2 really mad cows that would go through you for a short cut when the calve.
    I do want a shed that I manage on my own, all cattle or one animal can get to the crush, all cattle can have access to water and food without buckets or barrows. I need to be able to clean out (muck out) with the loader and still keep all cattle indoors, I want to be able to agitate slurry and still keep cattle in the shed safely because sometimes with long winters here the tanks can need to be partially emptied.
    Thanks again.

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    Senior Member grassmanman's Avatar
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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    I would reccomend agritubel gates and feed barriers. They're well made and galvanised and the gators are adjustable for length and a creep gate end is easily swapped for solid gate or vice versa which is handy as you can be flexible with pens.

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    Re: How would you lay out a small suckler shed for one man handling/feeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by GALCAM View Post
    Thanks for all the replies. It interesting how other people think of laying out something. I would never have thought of having a passage in the middle of the shed but its an option and of having calving pens the other side of it. I dont have a main handling yard. All of my existing sheds incorporate a crush so that there is no need to move cattle out of the shed. I like that idea as all work, testing, dosing etc is undercover. Most sheds in my area incorporate a crush so that it is a one man job to handle cattle and they cannot get out of the shed no matter how high they jump. Currently if I think a cow is going to calf while Im gone I can let her off the slats down on the lie back area and if she calves then its on straw and there is more place for her there and when I get back if she has calved or if she is definitely going to calve I move her into a calving pen.
    One of you made the comment about having to go through the lie back area to get to the calving pens and that is quite correct. Its certainly not the safest as I keep the bull in with my cows and I have 2 really mad cows that would go through you for a short cut when the calve.
    I do want a shed that I manage on my own, all cattle or one animal can get to the crush, all cattle can have access to water and food without buckets or barrows. I need to be able to clean out (muck out) with the loader and still keep all cattle indoors, I want to be able to agitate slurry and still keep cattle in the shed safely because sometimes with long winters here the tanks can need to be partially emptied.
    Thanks again.
    Hello GALCAM how're things?
    So how did it turn out, any chance you have a plan view with dimensions that you could share. I am planning a suckler shed but I think i will plan with organic in mind even though the scheme is not open for new applicants at the moment.

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