Putting cow comfort first with customised farm sheds
Improving the animal welfare and reducing the environmental impacts on the farm where key drivers to the buildings design.
Simpson Farms used to run two 44-aside herringbone sheds with half their herd milked in each.
However, in 2018 Mike and Trevor Simpson decided it was time to make a change. They were driven by a desire to improve animal welfare, increase production levels, protect pasture and reduce the environmental impacts of the farm.
Mike began by visiting eight farms, exploring different styles of sheds and speaking with farmers about their experiences. The solution they chose involved constructing a huge 6100 metre-squared feed pad with feed and water troughs to cater for the whole herd in one sitting.
The building design involved constructing a 6,000-metre squared feed pad with water troughs to cater for a whole herd in one sitting.
Feed pad specialists, Archway Group, designed and built the feed pad and recommended Aztech Buildings for the feed pad cover. Aztech’s ability to design a solution that was both
robust and large enough to cover the feed pad, yet customised to the exact requirements of Simpson Farm, was a key driver for Mike; the fact that the wellbeing of the animals was carefully considered and catered for in the building’s design, sealed the deal.
The feed pad cover is built with box beam steel rafters and purlins, a speciality of Aztech Buildings. It clear spans each feed pad with three 21 metre spans and features central
ventilation. It has been five months since the completion of the shed and the move away from a grass-based farming system and the results are already surpassing expectation. To help ease the transition, the herd was downsized by 150 cows and yet, with fewer animals, Mike and Trevor are currently experiencing a 20 per cent increase in production.
“We used to use sacrifice paddocks with cows on them every night and it was never a good feeling. With this system we can be sure our cows are comfortable and protect our pasture; this year we didn’t make any mud at all with the new system. It’s payback that doesn’t show on paper,” he shared. In addition, he explains the farm has barely used any urea this year whereas in previous seasons a huge amount was used.
The feed pad cover is built with box beam steel rafters and purlins, a speciality of Aztech Buildings.
Though he admits there are some more costs involved in moving to this system, the cost of feed being the most obvious, Mike explains that once they reach a seasonal production rate per cow of 550kgMS the balance will switch to cost savings, and that this isn’t far away!
A nutritionist advised Mike to expect production rates to hit 550 at the three-year mark but the farm is on track to do 460 this year. “We’re seeing the results we expected to see at the two-year mark, after just five months.”
“We have more friendly cows than we have ever had. It’s such a good feeling as a farmer to know the cows are happy and that we have this kind of facility on our farm; there are so many benefits you don’t see on paper”.
It has been five months since the completion of the shed and the move away from a grass-based farming system and the results are already surpassing expectation.
The addition of the shed has had positive effects for staff, too. Knowing the cows are happier has reduced stress levels among the team and, as it’s a more efficient shed, fewer staff are required at milking times.
Like many, Mike says he is always dreaming about what next. He has a ten-year plan for what he’d like to do on the farm, including naturally growing the herd size to four herds of 330 cows. With the payback of his investment in the shed and feeding solution already showing both on and off paper, he is well on track to achieve those dreams.