Handling cattle for routine inspection or veterinary tasks can be a time- consuming and risky business, given their size, unpredictability, and dislike of most things vet-related but the Roundhouse takes the hard work and hassle out of handling cattle.
But it’s less so when it’s done through the in-built handling system that is the centrepiece of The Roundhouse. With its circular design, gate-free man entry and exit routes and robust crush system the time it takes to handle cattle through the building is much reduced, while the safety of the stockman is correspondingly enhanced.
Such are the advantages that when RABDF chairman David Cotton, who farms at West Bradley, Somerset, was faced with the decision of a new conventional steel-framed building or a Roundhouse for some of his 200 dairy cows and 300 followers he chose the latter – largely because of the handling advantages.
“My 40-year-old conventional building had come to the end of its useful life and I also lost the use of some buildings I had been renting from a neighbour,” he says. “I was attracted to the Roundhouse because I needed a loose-housed system, being in an NVZ area, and I had also done some work on ventilation with Kingship (the dairy research and advisory company, who are a tenant on his farm) and liked the ventilation aspects of the building. But winning me over the most probably was the handling system benefits.”
He duly opted for a Roundhouse, and building commenced in November 2011. Once the foundations were down it took a total of a week to erect the Roundhouse, and another two for the internals. “It was a very quick and easy build,” he comments.
The stock in The Roundhouse – dry cows, heifers and finishing beef - love the environment and are extremely quiet, he adds. Stocking rates are 11 to a pen for dry cows (three pens), 11 for finishing steers (three pens) and 15 to a pen for bulling heifers. The half-pen houses his Hereford bull.
“I think the animals think the building is fantastic. I come out here at night and the animals are all lying down. They are also very easily handled. The building itself is easy to bed down and feed, and although the rain can come in through the hole in the roof it doesn’t come in far, and the cattle don’t worry about it.”
But it’s the handling that has, as expected, proven to be the star attraction - so good is it, he says, that he has put through 170 animals for TB testing in just 90 minutes. Now he is running all of his cows through the Roundhouse system
as well. “It is excellent, and takes much of the hard work and hassle out of handling animals. The Ministry (TB) vet was raving about it too,” he adds. “She couldn’t believe how good and quick it was.”
“The Roundhouse has definitely exceeded my expectations. Mine was number 48 in the country and I wondered if I was taking a risk, but it has worked out really well and I am delighted with it” he concludes.