This is a fully covered facility, usually built with plastic film over a framed roof. The base is a soft bedding material such as straw, sawdust or woodchips, capable of absorbing some effluent. Effluent drains through the bedding into a drainage system. The development of a clear film roof allows UV light penetration that assists sanitisation of floor/bedding material. Most have no or minimal walls to aid ventilation and drying of bedding material. Feed lanes can be located centrally, or outside with access from the lying area.
Alternatively, stock may access a designated feeding area or feedpad located adjacent to the facility. Dairy shelters can be used to house animals for longer periods of time such as during the wetter months or calving. Bedding needs to be well maintained to manage cow health and comfort.
- Minimise pasture damage when soils are overly wet, or prevent overgrazing, eg. when pasture is insufficient to meet full herd demand)
- Improved feed utilisation compared with paddock feeding of supplements.
- Improved herd monitoring is possible, e.g. heat detection, animal welfare, body condition
- Reduction in herd lameness possible
- Opportunities to reuse used bedding in compost and apply to pasture or forage land
- Can reduce farm maintenance costs associated with paddock renovations following soil pugging and compaction
- Can also be used for calf rearing and/or dry or hospital herd cows
- Medium capital outlay to establish
- Increased building (and machinery) repairs and maintenance
- Increased reliance on feed supplements being grown or purchased, and the risk of seasonal price changes
- Effluent management requires additional activities, to compost and dispose of the bedding
- Potential for increased regulatory attention with odour emissions (compost) and community amenity concerns
System Design Considerations
- Site preparation earthworks
- Base materials (eg. clay, rock)
- Roof and trusses
- Bedding (woodchip) and potentially
- storage area
- Feed bunkers
- Concrete for feedpad, feed or compost storage area
- First year feed inventory
- Ripper (to loosen/aerate woodchip)
- Roofed structures require structural engineering
- Location in relation to herd access – close to dairy is convenient but also dependent on location of feed storage areas and intended use of facility.
- Siting in relation to prevailing wind direction and sun to maximise drying of bedding.
- If being used for feeding part or all of feed requirement, then a separate feed area should be added and a supply management plan required.
- Accommodate feed bunker area and machinery if increased supplementary feeding.
- Provide appropriate stock intensity and feed space per cow. This can be different depending on the time period (and frequency) cows utilise the shelter.
- Liquids leaching through bedding should enter effluent system
- New bedding material storage (and requirement to keep dry)
- Weekly ripping and / or turning to encourage drying. This becomes daily during periods of increased use
Ongoing maintenance costs such as:
- Clean out and replacement of bedding material
- Storage and composting of bedding material
- Application of composted material to paddocks
- Replacement of plastic roof, every 5 years (commonly under a 5 year warranty)
- Carefully consider and plan to ensure that this is the right system for the purpose. A tendency to overstock and over utilise requires a lot of management
- Ensure there are readily accessible suppliers of bedding materials