PRECAST manufacturer Moore Concrete has kick started a debate with the aim of highlighting the benefits of slatted flooring systems in beef and dairy housing systems, compared with solid floors, bedded out with straw.
“The reality is that straw is no longer a cheap commodity, even in those parts of the UK and Ireland where it is relatively abundant,” stressed Moore’s agri sales co-ordinator Keri McGivern.
“Suspended floors are a cheaper, long term option. However, their use also brings a number of added value dimensions to the argument, from both a welfare and overall performance perspective.”
Keri went on to confirm that a slatted shed for beef cattle will pay for itself in only five years, when one compares the option of straw bedding a solid floored building.
“SAC figures confirm that the cost of putting up a slated shed for 100 store cattle will cost £45,000. This comprises the building of a tank and the fitting out of the slatted floor,” she added.
“The option of straw bedding the same number of cattle for a 26 week winter period will, in the first instance, require a building that is substantially larger.
“This is because cattle on straw require 3.6 metres square of space per head. This is double the space requirement recommended for slats.
“If one takes a straw requirement of one bale per animal every four weeks and factor in a cost per bale of £14, then the bedding costs alone work out at £9,100 per annum: hence the five year payback for slats.
“The reality is, however, that straw costs up to £16 per bale in some parts of the country. Moreover, our costings did not take account of the extra labour required in regularly cleaning out straw bedded courts.”
Turning to dairy, Keri pointed out that suspended flooring systems reduce cows’ predisposition to slurry heel and other feet problems.
“This is because the slurry is always dropping away from the animal,” she highlighted.
“Cleaner cows also mean less cases of mastitis.
“We would always recommend the use of slatted floors in collecting areas on dairy farms.
“In this way all the slurry and urine is collected in the tank below, thereby minimising the risk of leakage into water courses.
“Farmers will always be concerned about the upfront costs of putting up any new building.
“The good news is that a slatted shed is only 20% more expensive than a solid floor equivalent.
“However, ongoing financial savings will be accrued courtesy of the significantly reduced bedding costs and labour savings, not to mention the benefits from reduction in lameness.”
A growing number of beef and dairy producers throughout the UK and Ireland are now opting for Moore Concrete slatted systems. And all of the feedback has been very positive.
A Durham milk producer, who recently invested in a slatted shed, made the following points:
“It used to take six bales of straw to bed the cows each day. Back then that all came at a cost of £60 daily. Now it costs only £10 per day to bed the cubicles with sawdust.
“The reality is that our daily milk output has risen from 23.5 litres to the current figure of 28 litres, since moving into the new shed.
“Before moving into the new accommodation we would have been dealing with 12 cases of mastitis per month. During the winter just past we have only had a total of five mastitis cases to contend with.
“The investment in the new shed and feeding passage is already generating a payback for us in terms of improved milk output, fewer cases of mastitis and greater all round levels of comfort. It all adds up to happier cows.”