Skip to content

Ventilation, Cattle Health and Slats (Borders) – Event Summary

7 November 2017

Farmers from the Scottish Borders and Lothians met on 7 November for an on farm meeting to discuss cattle housing, ventilation and health with industry specialists.

The group visited Howlets Ha’ Farm by kind permission of Tom and Mary Macfarlane where over 1000 cattle are housed mainly in slatted sheds.

Jim Campbell, SAC Consulting Environment Team discussed the key features of cattle housing and ventilation which are covered in this technical note.  Click here to download

The farmer Tom Macfarlane talked about the changes he had made to the buildings to improve ventilation and how he had converted a grain shed into a slatted court.

David Wilson, St Boswells Veterinary Centre Manager and Iain McCormick (of the Galedin Vets) the farm’s vet discussed the significance of calf pneumonia to farm profitability, the multifunctional nature of the disease and control programme.  Iain outlined the farms own protocol for this 1000 cow herd.

David’s presentation can be found here, also a technical note of pneumonia in beef cattle.

Donald Dunbar, SAC Consulting St Boswells outlined the issues with straw this year and described alternatives including woodfines, samples of which were handed out.  Typical costs of a slatted shed v a straw bedded shed over 20 years were presented and can be found here

Following lunch in the village hall, Jamie Robertson of Aberdeen University via a video gave a practical demonstration of how to check ventilation in existing buildings and can be found here.

Take Home Messages

  • Ventilation design should start with a calculation of the required outlet area. As a rule of thumb allow 0.1 m2/head.
  • Inlet area should be a minimum of twice the outlet area and should be split between the two sides of the building.
  • Use a smoke bomb or machine (available from plumbers merchants) on a calm day to check the ventilation in buildings.
  • Averaged over 20 years there is little difference in the total cost/head of either slatted or straw bedded building. Average cost of pneumonia outbreaks £22 per calf at risk.
  • Pneumonia is a multifunctional disease.
  • Husbandry and management factors have an essential role in preventing pneumonia.
  • Recycled woodfines at £30-£40/tonne are being evaluated by SAC this winter as an alternative to straw. The Bedding Materials Directory was supplied to attendees.

Sign up to the FAS newsletter

Receive updates on news, events and publications from Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service