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Fix the roof while the sun is shining... (hopefully!)

Updated: Jun 14

As we head into the longest daylight period of the year, the list of jobs still to be done should be getting a little shorter. Hopefully there is some good silage in the clamps, crops should be growing and some of the sheds should be empty as livestock have been moved outside. It's a great time to take stock of what worked well over the last housing period, and what needs attention before the next one- we all know how long it takes to get any building work done...

There are always two aspects, how did the sheds work for what you put in them and how much of that is how you managed them?

I always say to people that it is how bad the worst day in a particular shed is that determines level of disease, not how good it is on a good day.

Now's the time to ask- did the animals in the sheds stay clean, dry and healthy, and if not, why not? Are the valley gutters in need of attention- did you have any indoor waterfalls this winter? Are there blocked drains or areas of broken concrete that are always wet? Did the water bowl constantly leak or need replacing with a bigger one? When you were bedding up, were you bedding on top of a nice clean bed or are you spreading new material on top of a pile of ****?

If that was the case regularly, the chances are that your levels of disease were higher than you want, and/or it is likely you are overstocked. Don't be tempted to think you get away with it most of the time.

Just like people, it takes a few days between when animals pick up an infection and before they show signs of disease. If you have a cow or ewe sick with mastitis, or a calf with pneumonia or scour, the chances are that animal picked up the infection 5-10 days previously. o a bad day may take a couple of weeks to reveal the problems caused. A good example is the farm that often gets a splurge of calf scour and mastitis in freshly calved cows, just after they clean out the calving yard. There is really strong evidence that up to 90% of mastitis cases in the first month in milk were picked up in the dry period and up to 60% of cases in the first 100 days are related to the dry period.

With DNA evidence, it has been shown that the mastitis causing bugs can first be detected in these cows udders long, long before they actually get an obvious case of mastitis. Likewise, good colostrum can help protect the calf for the first 7 days, but then it starts to wear off- while the bugs it picked up in the calving box wait their time. So, often, days 7-14 are peak days for calf scour. In reality, these problems occurred not because you cleaned out but because of the build-up of bugs in the weeks before you cleaned out; it will take a couple of weeks to see the benefit. The same happens with most infections.

Some disease causing bugs can last a long time in a shed that hasn't been properly cleaned out. It's a great chance now to get them cleaned out and disinfected. Ideally, this should involve a steam cleaner, some detergent and then a properly made up disinfectant and then a good long rest. So, when reviewing the last housing period- think back honestly to last winter, how bad were those sheds on their worst days, and whether you need to plan for something different next year.

Oh, and if the roof does need fixing, now's the time and please, please take care- it's a dangerous job not to be undertaken lightly!!!


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