11th November 2021
How to weatherproof cattle housing and maintain air quality
To ensure cow comfort in colder weather, cattle housing must be sufficiently weatherproofed while maintaining good air flow.
A cattle shed should ideally be as open as possible, to achieve optimal ventilation. Open sides help prevent spread of respiratory disease throughout the year and reduces the risk of heat stress when the weather is warm.
Impact of wind chill
The comfort temperature range for dairy cows is between 5°C and 18°C, however factors like humidity and wind chill can influence this. In winter, wind chill can lower the temperature experienced by cows, meaning they require more energy to maintain body temperature. This can result in poorer feed conversion efficiency, as they need to eat more to achieve the same level of growth or milk production.
When weatherproofing cattle housing, the key is to use a partial windbreak to reduce wind chill while letting fresh air into the shed. Weatherproofing should also offer some protection for keeping bedding dry, as it can help reduce the additional expense of putting extra bedding down to keep the shed environment warm and dry during wet weather.
Common weatherproofing mistakes
Weatherproofing doesn’t need to be complex. It is essentially providing a durable windbreak to protect livestock from wind chill and rain while allowing sufficient air flow. However, there are some common pitfalls to avoid.
- Using netting from a builders merchant does not sufficiently reduce wind chill. Nor is it strong enough to withstand the wind and rain which comes with a typical winter season in the UK. It usually disintegrates quickly leaving the housed cattle with no weather protection
- Stacking bales of hay or straw to block an open side of a shed when a storm is forecast is not the most effective way of weatherproofing. Although it does act as a windbreak, it also completely blocks air flow which can lead to the atmosphere inside the shed quickly becoming damp and stale – a perfect environment for respiratory diseases to spread among the herd
- Yorkshire boarding will block the wind while letting air in, however with timber prices currently very high, this may not be the most cost-effective option
- Space boarding can also act as a wind break, as long as the gap between boards is the right width to draw air through without creating a draught and allowing rain to enter the building, which will negatively impact cows. Approximately an inch is the optimal width.
- A weatherproof mesh such as Bayscreen can protect against the wind, allow good ventilation, help keep bedding dry and also enable good light penetration, creating a comfortable environment for housed cattle
In addition to choosing how best to reduce wind chill while maintaining air quality, there are other factors to consider before making a final decision on how to weatherproof a cattle shed.
- Age of stock – youngstock are more vulnerable to the impact of wind chill and wet bedding. They may benefit from a material which offers greater weather protection, such as M90 high performance mesh, rather than the standard mesh which is suitable for most livestock. This is especially the case if the shed is in an exposed area
- Access requirement – if access is required, rather than just weatherproofing along the side of a shed, a different solution will be required. Rollerscreens provide quick access, along with the same standard of weatherproofing and ventilation as the Bayscreen.
- Automation preference – some farmers prefer to have an automated weatherproofing system. This works best in larger sheds with four to five bays, but requires just a minimum of three bays. An automated system uses temperature and moisture sensors to detect when the screen needs to be lifted or lowered, removing the need for the farmer to adjust it at all
Fabric based weatherproofing systems are quick to install. For example, two people can install a Bayscreen in 10 minutes, or one person alone can do it, but it will take longer. Similarly, a Rollerscreen can be installed in half a day by one person.
To discuss the best weatherproofing option for your cattle housing, get in touch with our team today.