A revolutionary livestock building installed on a unit in North Yorkshire is cutting labour input, reducing cattle respiratory disease and improving health and safety.

The Roundhouse houses store cattle all year round on David Richardson’s 303ha (750-acre) mixed farm at Melsonby.

Having bought the building in 2004, he says it has been so successful that any additional cattle housing in future will follow a similar design.

While admitting that a round building fails to offer the same flexibility as the traditional, rectangular shape, he believes the sacrifice has been worthwhile and the Roundhouse has brought several benefits.

Mr Richardson, who has one of the prototype designs at Low Grange farm, says the system has reduced the amount of time spent feeding and bedding up by an average one-and-a-half hours a day.

He has also noticed that although respiratory disease flares up periodically in his other buildings during the winter, livestock in the Roundhouse have been virtually free of disease.

A further advantage is the gate system, which allows stockmen to move cattle around without coming into direct contact.

Cattle in Mr Richardson’s traditional buildings also tend to sweat in winter when it is foggy and damp, while bulls in the Roundhouse remain comfortable whatever the weather, he notes.

Designed and built by Geoff Simpson and John Allinson, farmers’ sons who run S&A fabricators and builders’ merchants in Barnard Castle, Co Durham, Mr Simpson says the response from planning authorities has been positive.

He claims the building will work equally well for housing sheep and pigs and could possibly be used for dairy cattle, combined with a robotic milker.

However, there has been no research into its use in conjunction with slatted flooring to date.

There is a risk that the open-sided building may not be suitable for younger animals during cold weather and, therefore, the company recommends that in harsher climates only cattle weighing 350kg or above should be housed in the Roundhouse during winter.

A main feature is the roof, which is constructed on the ground and raised using hydraulic rams. Made of PVC-coated polyester, with a life expectancy of 15-30 years, it has been proven to withstand gusts of more than 70mph.

Ventilation is via a 10sq m hole in the centre.

A footbath and crush are incorporated into the design, along with an integral loading dock.

A 1.8m cantilever to the roof protects the perimeter feed troughs.

The Roundhouse is currently available in one size only, because of the constraints of the steel and fabric.

However, the firm is investigating linking two together for producers wishing to expand.

fwlivestock@rbi.co.uk