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Making Life Easier on the Farm

Andy Ryder, drystock advisor, says handling facilities are often overlooked as farms are developed. Labour on most farms is limited to the farmer and help from family members. Therefore, handling of animals requires good facilities that enables one person to complete the necessary routine tasks

Farmers are often time poor due to the nature of family life and/or maintaining additional employment.  As a result, it is essential that farmers endeavour to complete routine tasks with stock in as efficient a manner as possible. Otherwise, some tasks will be delayed until help is available or not done at all. Examples of these tasks include footbathing of sheep, scanning, dosing etc. This is a greater problem where farms are fragmented. This has implications for the performance of the animals on the farm. In some cases, farmers have not joined Department schemes as additional gathering of animals is required during the year, such as the BEEP-S and the sheep welfare scheme. Consequently, they are losing out on this source of income.

The agriculture sector is a high risk sector to work in, as is widely publicised. Handling animals is a particularly risky job, with a lot of farmers getting injured or worse still, fatalities occurring as a result of handling animals using poor facilities. We need to reduce these risks on farms and one way of doing this is to improve the handling facilities on farms.

Handling Facilities

Every farm is different and has different requirements. Any farm with cows should have a purpose built calving gate for difficult calving. This facility needs to be located in the calving area, roofed and with good lighting. If the gate is in place it will be used.

The main handling facility on the farm needs to be located in an area that has good vehicle access, in the main block of land. Its needs to be built to allow ease of movement of animals into and through the unit, made of strong wearing material that will last and easy to clean. The facilities will not be used otherwise.

Fragmented Farms

Fragmented parcels need a pen, at a minimum. The pen needs to be able to hold the maximum amount of stock that will be in that block of land during the year. The structure needs to be strong and permanent. Allow space for loading and unloading without risk of escaping animals or causing injury to the farmer.

Gates /Boundary Fences

Having stock-proof boundary fences on the farm avoids animals breaking out, allows for better management of grass, reduces time spent repairing fences and gathering animals that have broken out. A bonus is to maintain a good relationship with neighbours. Gates on farms should be hung, swinging and easy to open and close. Have a simple mechanism to keep gates closed without using rope. If possible, all gates off roads should be replaced with 12 to 14 foot gates to cater for larger farm machinery.

Currently, TAMS II grants are available for sheep fencing, calving gates, fixed and mobile handling facilities for cattle and sheep of between 40 to 60%, depending on farmer’s qualifications.  VAT incurred may be claimed back on fixed handling or farm fencing on completing the job. Contact your local Teagasc advisor for further information. Sheep farmers should check out the Teagasc publication ‘A Guide to Designing a Sheep Handling Unit’ (Edward Egan) (PDF)