19 July 2002

Be roofless and reduce the costs of herd housing

ROOFLESS cubicle housing offers a cheaper and healthier alternative to conventional slatted buildings, according to Irish research.

Many producers are looking to upgrade cow housing, but low milk prices mean capital costs have to be kept to a minimum, says Teagasc researcher Michael ODonovan. "One solution is to construct a topless cubicle system instead of conventional buildings."

Topless cubicles cost about £320/cow, less than one-quarter the cost of a conventional slatted building at £1300/cow. The system at Moorepark Research Centre consists of concrete cubicles and a scraping passage, surrounded by a windbreak fence constructed from old pallets.

In one study, topless cubicles were compared with housing animals outside at reduced stocking rates on a sacrifice paddock. Animals in the cubicles had no health problems, while those out in fields tended to have more lameness, says Dr ODonovan.

"Cubicles are scraped twice daily into a slurry lagoon situated at one end. High quality silage is fed along a feed barrier in a concrete yard next to the cubicles. These systems are ideal for housing dry cows or heifers which then calve onto grass. However, for the system to work, grass must be available at calving."

He also believes topless cubicles can help improve heat detection. "Cows at grazing can be housed for a proportion of the day. &#42