Recently, Agriland travelled to Co. Waterford, specifically to Knockavannia, to speak to John Hannigan about his brand new five-bay beef shed.
John, who works full-time on a local dairy farm and part-time as an artificial insemination (AI) technician with Dovea Genetics, operates a calf-to-store enterprise alongside his full and part-time roles.
Having taken over the running of the farm from his parents – who operated a suckling enterprise, John decided to move away from suckler cows and instead go down the route of buying in autumn-born dairy-bred calves and bring them to stores.
The reason for buying in autumn-born calves, according to John, is that because he works on a dairy farm and as an AI technician, he’s busy all spring.
By buying in calves in autumn when its quieter, he’s kept busy all year round rather than “dogging himself with work all at the one time of year”.
Up until this year, housing was tight on the farm and the Waterford native decided it was time to build a new housing unit to allow him to expand numbers on his farm.
Speaking to Agriland outside his new beef shed, John said: “My parents would have kept suckler cows all their life and when I came on board, they were losing interest in them and when I took over full-time, I decided to change systems.
“I moved to buying in autumn-born dairy calves which started with buying in about 10. We never had much housing on the farm, only a converted hay shed and a few outhouses, but numbers were never big so it worked for us when the cows were here.
“However, I wanted to increase numbers and having laid out a paddock system on the farm over the last two years, the next step was building a shed that could facilitate this increase in numbers.
“So, in May of this year we began this process and now it’s just come to a finish.”
John made contact with Aidan Kelly of Agri Design and Planning Solutions (ADPS) who designed the shed for him and who also carried out the planning.
Looking at the shed in more detail, the new beef unit measures 24m long and nearly 9.2m wide. It stands 6.045m high to the apex, 4m to the eve gutters and 4.42m to the overhang canopy.
The walls of the shed stand 2.4m high, with the slatted tank 2.75m deep, 4.0m wide and 27m long – which has an agitation point at either end.
The five-bay shed is divided up into the three pens – two large and one smaller pen.
The two larger pens – which span two bays each – are 9.6m long and 5m wide, while the smaller pen located in between the two larger pens in the middle of the shed measures 4.8m long and 5m wide.
At the back of the shed is small passageway going the length of the shed which measures 24m long and 1.15m wide.
This passageway is to allow John feed his cattle meal at the back of the shed – with a sliding doorway at either end of the passageway.
The feeding passageway at the front of the shed measures 4.5m wide and 27.8m long. A 2.45m canopy protruding out over the feedface was also fitted.
Inside the five-bay shed
The design of the shed was kept simple, something John says he tries to do with everything he does.
The five-bay shed is split up into three sections as already mentioned. Two large pens which make up two spans each and one small pen – made up of one span in the middle of the shed.
The plan with the two large pens is to hold the majority of the yearling and heavier stock, while young calves will remain over in the old sheds.
The one-span pen in the middle of the shed will be for stock who are behind target from the rest of the cattle and can be given preferential treatment.
Or if there are no cattle that are too much behind from the rest, John says he will think about possibly buying some cull cows and housing them in this pen for the winter period with an eye of finishing them.
Standard Condon Engineering diagonal feed barriers were fitted in each bay, with three feed barriers – for each pen – designed to allow John let cattle in and out of the shed.
He opted against going with head locking barriers as the way the yard is set up outside the shed, John can open the gate of the pens and run the cattle up the crush which is close by.
Inside the shed, two Condon tip-over water troughs were installed to serve each of the three pens.
Skylights were installed in each bay to brighten the shed and can be found in any grant-spec shed, with LED lights also installed at the back of the shed and also under the overhang over the feedface.
Meal feeding at the back of the shed
At the back of as shed a small passageway – approximately 1.15m wide – was left for John to be able to go in and feed his cattle meal at the rear of the shed.
In time, the plan is to install feeding troughs on the second rail up from the ground. John is hoping to put in troughs which can fold up.
With a sliding doorway at either end of the passageway, John hopes to be able to go in with his wheelbarrow and feed right along the back of the shed out to the other side.
As a young farmer, John said he wanted to take the chance to avail of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II) if he could.
So he put in an application for a grant which was granted and qualified him for a 60%.
This, along with reclaiming the VAT back, helped to bring down the cost to his own pocket.
The cost of the shed came to roughly €90,000, before any grant or any reclaimed VAT is deducted.
Construction began in May of this year with the digging out of the tanks and the shed came to a finish around the middle of November.
Conor Butler dug out the tank, Mick Fenton completed all the concrete work and stud all the shed, while Brendan and Michael Lawlor did all the electrical work.
Speaking about his decision to go ahead and build the shed, John said: “I’m very happy with how it turned out. It gives me options. That’s why I opted to go with two pens [made up of two spans each] together and one in the middle.
“I felt it gave me more options, rather than having five separate pens. I kept it simple, as it’s a simple system I run here.
“I started with buying in 10 calves and now I’m at 50 so now with the new shed, I’m giving myself the option of increasing numbers again into the future.”