Introduction herd shelters

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The basics:

Having a clear-roofed Standoffshelter for your herd as an “on farm facility” for short and longer term housing of dairy-cows in Australia.  The justification for installing a shelter like a Redpath design will vary from farm-to-farm and is often for regionally specific or farm specific needs.

For instance in the areas of Southland and Taranaki (New Zealand), the main driving force behind farmers considering a clear-roofed shelter system is so that they can protect pasture from pugging/compaction and over-grazing damage when the extremes occur in the local weather. On some farms the herd shelters may be used for several weeks at a time and these Redpath “Wintering barn” or "Home" style shelters will feature a higher level of weather protection systems designed into them. The intensive use of a Redpath Wintering barn will also require the farmer to be pro-active about their soft floor litter management and also install superior drainage systems. Please read our flooring link guidelines for more information on this. Click Here

In other regions such as the Northland, Waikato and Lower North Island (New Zealand), there are often environmental benefits to farms that have covered a standoff or feedpad areas.  A Redpath clear-roofed cover can vastly reduce the effects of uncontrolled run-off caused by rainfall and will also aid speedy drying of a concrete or deep-litter pad. Keeping the litter dry vastly reduces the incidence of disease/bacteria.

There are also benefits of shelter during summer months when dry or drought conditions may appear.  The shelters may then be used by farmers to more accurately control water, mineral and feed uptake + reduce pasture over-grazing. Often Redpath will fit overhead shade screens or roof ventilation for superior summertime herd housing.

There are substantial and on-going savings to be made on farm feed and supplement costs by being able to feed in a controlled and sheltered environment, with the warmth of a clear-roofed shelter allowing cows to maximise their conversion of feed into production by their reduced weather induced stress levels. Within the shelter when weather is poor, many farmers comment that "what we feed them they put on their backs"

Another on-going benefit too, many farms have the potential savings in reducing or eliminating the need for off farm wintering of the cows, the Standoffshelter also provides a handy place for placing springers at calving time.

An outline of Redpath Dairyshelter herd buildings
Redpath feedpad and Standoffshelters (sometimes called wintering barns, or compost barns) are essentially a tool to be used on the farm for increased productivity and to reduce farm costs and labour overall.  The basic use of the clear roofed Redpath shelter is to provide a covered dry and warm area for the cows to stand and be fed when off the paddocks.  The farmer may wish to keep cows off the grass due to weather conditions, the condition of the pasture, animal health reasons, calving or for calf rearing.  A major benefit is the substantial reduction in waste run-off when covering the standoff area as the roof cover virtually eliminates rainfall onto the pad / feed area.
If you have not held stock beneath this type of shelter before – then it would be reasonable to assume that there will be a learning curve on how the shelter will best suit your farm’s needs.
It has been Redpath’s experience that farmers that get use to the shelters benefits – tend to use the shelter for longer periods than initially considered (by up to twice as much), so this should be considered when looking at installing a Redpath Dairyshelter on farm.
Note: Some planning is required when taking cows from a grass only diet to a feed and supplement diet.  Talk with your dairy consultant to avoid dietary problems and issues that revolve around sudden changes to the cow’s diet. 

Seasonal uses for the Redpath standoff / feedpad shelters
In winter the cows may be taken off the pasture to save the pasture from pugging, compaction and over grazing.  Pasture will recover much more readily if un-damaged and not over-grazed. Substantial savings in time, money / labour can be made by keeping pasture and soil in good condition for the following season. When the weather is wet or cold – then bringing the herd indoors will see benefits in the cow’s ability to convert feed into milk.  (Less energy is used up trying to keep warm and walk around grazing / feeding in wet, puggy paddocks.  If conditions are wet and windy then “wind chill” factor has a very large effect on the cow’s temperature and resistance to illness.
In springtime you will need to allow plenty of space for the milking cows and adjust your feed and watering to suit their needs. Keeping the cows clean will become more important and keeping the floor of the shelter well bedded and dry is also important.
The Standoffshelter may well be used for calving with part of the shelter gated off for this purpose.  Farmers report that the large majority of the cows will choose to calve inside the shelter (even when given the option to move outside at their leisure).  Ensure to provide plenty of fresh dry bedding!

In summertime heat stress can be avoided by keeping the shelter sidewalls open and “free breathing”.  A Redpath roof / ridge ventilation system is the best way to keep the air temperature in the Standoffshelter cool – however some alternative are to fit either a manually operated or fully automatic shade screen system overhead, or to shade paint the roof of the building.
Autumn will see the shelter flooring being re-stocked & refreshed – being prepared for the coming winter season.  The shelter may be used to protect the herd in seasonal rains / storms.  

Stocking rates
Stocking rates will vary from area to area and is dependent on a number of factors and each individual farmer’s preferences.  Decisions on stocking rates will likely be dictated by the following 

  1. The type of flooring that you use
  2. The size of the cows that you are running
  3. The age of the cows that you are running
  4. Your proposed method of feeding out
  5. Your proposed water supply
  6. Your proposed method of cleaning the shed floor
  7. Your proposed method of floor maintenance
  8. Your proposed effluent control / use preferences
  9. The amount of protection for the stock needed (site exposure)

Typically a minimum of 4.5 m2 per cow is required as a feedpad only shelter. A Dairy report suggests that this may be as great as 7-8 m2 per cow in some circumstances when the shelter is to be used for longer periods.
Redpath’s experience is that the “more space the better” for cow comfort, reduced stress and less pressure on any soft-litter flooring materials (if used)
A lower cow density also allows the floor to dry out quicker & maintain a reasonable exposure to sun & UV, which helps keep the floor dry and clean.

First use of shelter
Cows will take between a few days and up to one week to become used to the feedpad shelter. They may also need to be trained on your new management techniques (such has standing them off for much longer periods from the paddock than they have previously experienced)
If a compost or deep litter type floor is being provided the cows will tend to lie down and rest more readily compared to a concrete or hard floor surface that has a lot of effluent on its surface.
It's good practice to provide plenty of feed and water to the cows when using the Redpath Standoffshelter for the first few visits.

Feeding out in the feedpad shelter
Feeding the cows can be done various ways either inside or outside the shelter.  Our experience has been that the shelters fitted with a side eave-hanger (a small extension that hangs out from the top of the side wall by approximately 1m) acts as an excellent “feed cover” & stops the need for the farmer to enter the building for feeding out. It is important that all cows have an equal opportunity to feed and that the feed is clean and fresh. If the Redpath shelter features a central service lane, then this will offer a 'year -round" 100% sheltered feed placement zone. See our buildings designs page for more information. Click here
The eave-hanger system allows the farmer to quickly and efficiently drop feed via a side chute feed-wagon.
Other methods of feeding include – feeding from a silage stack at the end of the shelter.  The cows wander out & feed at their leisure and then return to the shelter.  The silage stack can be controlled by use of an electric fence or push rail.
Feeding inside the feedpad shelter is also an option, and may be more suitable for small herds (100 or less). 
If vehicles are to be driven inside the shelter on a regular basis – it is best to install the Redpath gable end gate system that allows clearance for small to medium sized tractors / vehicles in through the end of the building & below the line of the gable rail or fit a dedicated feed lane.
Monitor the herd regularly when feeding and keep a watchful eye on cows that may be being bullied or not feeding normally.
On occasions some cows will not enjoy the shelter environment in close proximity to other cows (rare – but possible)
Water for the cows should be provided at all times.  Troughs should be designed in a way that avoids too much of the water being splashed out and into the shelter area.  Wet and damp patches can occur in the shelter if this is allowed to happen and this can promote the incidence of disease and or bacteria.
Try to avoid feed getting into the water troughs / water supply.
Ideally the shelter floor should be kept as dry as possible – particularly if a compost floor or deep litter system is being used.

Building Maintenance
Redpath use a very heavy duty roofing membrane called “Durashelter” for its agricultural farm buildings range.  Durashelter is 25% thicker than standard long life farm building membranes so as to provide superior service life and storm resistance.
Usually no windbreak is required for the standoff / feedpad buildings however on sites exposed to wind – there is likely be a benefit to the herd via an effective reduction in wind-chill factor.
The building covers are designed to remain in place in wind speeds exceeding 100mph/160kph – however regular exposure to wind speeds above 60mph /120kph (monthly) – will possibly reduce the service life of the roof membrane. Redpath is unique in that we are so confident in our heavy-duty Durashelter 254 micron roofing membrane "that if the roofing were to fail through normal storm/wind loads within the first 5 years of its life, then we will repair or replace it for free"* Conditions do apply
In ideal conditions the Durashelter membrane will last more than 10 years – however in tougher more extreme wind sites then possibly only 5 -7 years can be expected.
Fortunately Durashelter is quite competitively priced and a roof the size of 10m x 50m can be replaced for less than 10% of the buildings value including labour.
A shelter belt alongside the building may assist in protecting the structure and its covers on extreme wind-load sites. Redpath can supply and install this for you if required.
A three year warranty for the complete structure applies when purchasing a Redpath Standoffshelter, whilst a 5 year pro-rata UV warranty applies to the Durashelter covering.
Redpath do offer a maintenance “check-over” service for all buildings nationwide, this may be free of charge if the builder is in your area or there may be a small cost applied.

Redpath shelter may be typically broken down into four main on-farm uses:

Temporary housing – Few hours only

Floor Type: Often constructed over an existing or new concrete pad, slotted type concrete floor, hard pan base, or litter floor.

1) Used for temporary protection whilst feeding out.
2) Provides basic shelter and warmth for drying the floor
3) Eliminate rainfall induced run- off from pad of effluent
4) Cow intensity 4-5m2 per cow.

Short/Med term housing - 1-3 day(s)

Floor Type: Soft litter, for comfort when housing for multiple days

1) Used for 1-3 day housing
2) Basic shelter + wind protection may be incorporated onto walls.
3) Allows all basic benefits of Feedpad shelter
4) Increased drainage requirements beneath litter compared to a feedpad shelter
5) Medium level of litter management & maintenance
6) Cow intensity 6.5 - 7m2 per cow

Longer term housing - Up to one week or more

Floor Type: Soft litter for comfort over long periods of housing.

1) Used for multiple weeks of housing
2) Superior drainage system
3) Larger sized wood chip or similar free-draining material used for floor litter to speed drainage.
4) Higher level of litter management / maintenance, often on a daily basis. I.E stirring, aerating, cleaning etc.
5) Additional weather protection systems/options likely to be fitted to the building (eaves, sides etc.)
6) Building sits on raised pad, with perimeter drain system
7) Cow intensity 7 - 8m2 per cow

Longer term housing - (weeks)

Floor: Soft litter for comfort over long periods of housing.

1) Used for multiple weeks of housing
2) Superior drainage system
3) Larger sized wood chip or similar free-draining material used for floor litter to speed drainage.
4) Higher level of litter management / maintenance, often on a daily basis. I.E stirring, aerating, cleaning etc.
5) Additional weather protection systems/options likely to be fitted to the building (eaves, sides etc.)
6) Building sits on raised pad, with perimeter drain system
7) Cow intensity 9+ m2 per cow


Company Overview:
Redpath Ideal is owned by Glen Williams and Brian Clark. The company operates a factory based in Bendigo Australia, and Palmerston North New Zealand. Both factories produce industry leading designs of 'clear-roofed" farm buildings for the Dairy industry. We manufacture more than 30 acres of these buildings annually and have manufactured more than 500 animal shelters throughout Australasia.
Redpath offer our Dairy Standoffshelter buildings and systems direct to the farmer.

Redpath is proud to offer Australian made buildings with uncompromised quality which are highly suited to the local conditions and farm use. Redpath guarantee what we sell and are the only company to offer a written warranty on our Durashelter clear roofing membrane.  We design, develop + test our products to meet our customers' needs and expectations. Redpath's after sales service is second to none!

Our dedicated team of 14 installation crews is based throughout Australasia and gives Redpath the ability to provide our customers with a complete business solution from purchase to completion and for the service life of the building.

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