Spend a few minutes to save hours of trouble
By Simon Wragg
POOR weather means winter housing of cattle is drawing closer, but a few minutes spent on pre-winter checks could save hours of hassle once cattle are inside, says dairy consultant Paul Henman.
Here, Mr Henman looks at pre-winter checks with producer Robert Ham of Alston Sutton Farms, Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, whose 245-cow dairy herd will come inside this week.
lCubicles Mats and mattresses should be checked for wear and replaced where necessary. Coarse surfaces can cause hock sores. Dividing ropes should be tight to prevent over-lying and dividing bars and uprights should be in good order.
lFeed troughs Clean out waste residue and wash where possible. Mouldy food contaminates fresh fodder and can suppress appetite. Clean out ring and box feeders.
lYards Ripe for a fall. Where concrete has collapsed, cows can trip and damage hooves. Remove broken concrete and use a good amount of foundation material before resurfacing. Also, smooth concrete is slippery for both stock and stockmen. Grooving will help reduce risks.
lWater troughs Milk is 85% water so good intakes are essential. Clean out sediment from troughs – a dustpan is ideal for the job – adjust ballcocks and ensure covers are replaced. An over-flowing trough costs money and can be a real hazard in frosty or icy weather. Taps and pipes should be lagged to prevent freezing.
lScrapers Automatic units need little maintenance. Check chains for wear and make sure they are adjusted properly. Grease guide/corner cogs and check hydraulic oil levels in motorised units. Where using a tractor, treat it to a service and replace anti-freeze. Look-out for rot on the scraper itself and worn rubbers.
lStraw shredders Check and tighten belts, check engine oil levels, grease pulleys and sharpen knives. Ensure all guards and safety covers are replaced and secured. Tyre pressures should be check on trailed units.
lGates These should be in good repair with no sharp or protruding edges, especially on gates sheeted with metal. Adjust hinges to ensure latches match up.
lLights Roof lights should be clear and electric lights in good working order. Clean bulbs and strip lamps to reduce fire risk, particularly in straw yards. Switches should be working and ensure insulated rubber covers are intact and in good order; damp and electricity make a lethal cocktail.
lGutters and drains These should be cleared out, particularly valley gutters, but have someone hold the ladder and use roof crawling boards where necessary. Downpipes should be in good order. Rainwater should not end up in slurry stores – it adds to the winter workload.
lSlurry stores/dirty water lagoons Where possible ensure these are as empty as possible before housing. Spreading is undesirable before the new year, but where necessary choose the site for spreading carefully to avoid run-off. Incorporate slurry where possible. *