Housing young cattle in open yards is still a new technique in most of the developing countries. So before making a detailed study of the building techniques involved in this kind of housing, we really must recall to the reader the principles behind this kind of housing and its advantages over conventional, stanchion housing systems. After a quick look at the various systems recommended, we shall point out the basic recommendations to be observed regarding space standards and the various rounds of work to be respected.
The recommendations in this report apply particularly to housing for young cattle, such as feeder bulls and young heifers. But there is no reason why the stockman cannot adapt them, as needed, to other kinds of stock-rearing.
Thanks to the experience gained in the Tunisian project, the authors were able to correct and refine a number of construction details. They were also able to identify the most frequently encountered mistakes and problems in this kind of work. This is why certain items have been dealt with in such a detailed way.
There is no question that proper housing is an important factor in successful stock-rearing, though of course it could not alone solve all the problems involved in intensifying animal production. If well-planned housing is to be productive, then there must of course also be balanced feeding of healthy cattle genetically adapted to the specific production specialization pursued.
Open yard housing, despite its many advantages, is not adaptable to certain, exceptional conditions under which young cattle are reared. But when it is possible, and most of the time it is, it can certainly help at the same time to improve working conditions and boost the stockman's income.
Before making a detailed study of the open yard housing system (or loose housing), it would be a good idea to review the necessary functions of housing designed to provide shelter for cattle.
One reason why loose housing has made such slow progress in the developing countries is that stockmen in these countries are often some what misinformed as to the function which housing for livestock should perform.
Stables are often considered prestige items as buildings, and not enough attention is paid to the real needs of livestock-raising.
Stockmen are also often obsessed with the idea of making something durable, a building built to last 20 or 30 years. What they fail to realize is that the production specialization for which the building was intended might have to be abandoned, and that, in any case, technological advance is such that housing concepts which seem suitable today may tomorrow be completely out of date.
Another frequent misconception about stabling is to give undue emphasis to protection of the animals from inclement weather, whilst overlooking the working conditions of the people involved in caring for the stock.
It so happens that domestic animals, especially cattle, have an astonishing capacity to adapt to differing environments. Often, in fact, excessive concern with protection, such as stables which completely isolate the animal from the outside, can provoke even greater problems (such as lung diseases furthered by poor circulation) than those the building was designed to avoid.
It is because a building must satisfy a number of different functions at the same time that the overall concept of a building should not be altered by the desire of the individual stockman to “improve upon” the initial plan without taking the overall concept into account.
First of all, housing has to protect the animal against the hostilities of the environment. Climate varying considerably from one region to another, this function can be filled in very different ways.
Protection from heat is of particular importance at certain times of the year in many of the developing countries. But this kind of protection does not justify a heavy outlay for installations — a simple shelter, it does not have to be waterproof but must offer shade during the sunniest part of the day — is, when well-designed, sufficient to ensure the comfort of the animals and proper air circulation. Even a row of trees or hedge, specially planted for this purpose, is sometimes enough.
Protection from cold, when the drop in temperature is not made worse by windchill, is less crucial. A bit more straw in the lying area and a slight increase in the feed ration is enough to help the animals through the winter season. Cattle can withstand temperatures as low as -10° C without any particular problem.
Protection from wind is essential during the cold season. It may be imperative to build walls, windbreaks or board up an area against the prevailing winds so as to avoid respiratory diseases which are prevalent where herd density is high.
Protection from rain, which seems so important to stockmen, is only technically and economically justified by rather constant rainfall… However, the production specialization may have to be temporarily interrupted during the rainy season, as in the case of fattening. In other types of specializations, it is usually enough to build a roof over the lying area.
Protection from mud is clearly more important. The animals can indeed dry off rather quickly after a shower, but if water has accumulated in the open yard it may remain for several weeks. The proper procedure in this case is to ensure good drainage of the housing area and to adhere strictly to the standard animal density/unit of area.
The output from rearing young cattle, whether males for slaughter or females for breeding, can be analyzed either from the technical standpoint in terms of mean daily gain or from the economical standpoint in terms of the stockmen's gross margin at the end of the operation.
In either case, output depends mainly on feeding. The success of the operation is dependent upon two factors: the intrinsic quality of the diet (energy level, a balanced diet), and the volume of feed consumed daily by the animals, which depends on the palatability of the fodder and how it is distributed to the animals.
Accordingly, special attention has to be paid to the arrangement of the feeding-trough in the different housing systems recommended:
The manger must be such as to allow the animal to eat enough of the foods making up his diet. Feeding-trough capacity must therefore be in line with the kind of diet and how often it is distributed.
The manger must be designed so that the stockman can easily fill it from outside the housing area without disturbing the animals and as safely and most efficiently for himself as possible.
The manger must be designed so that all the animals in the lot have access to it at the same time, so that each can eat his share without being crowded out by the more aggressive. It is essential to respect a standard of 50 cm/per head at the trough.
The manger should be so designed as to cut down on waste and rejected food: withers and protection bars will keep the animals from climbing into the food, soiling it and scattering the uneaten portion on the ground.
The manger must be suitable for continuous use throughout the raising or rearing cycle. So it must either be of average dimensions adapted to animals of different weights and/or be provided with a height-regulating device.
Young feeders and breeders have to be able to drink water within their housing area.
Water needs vary considerably with the kind of diet (silage fodder is 3/4 ths water in weight compared with 1/10 th for concentrated feed), climatic conditions, type of housing and so forth (the environmental surroundings).
And of course water needs vary with the weight of the animals (the average is ten litres of water per 100 kg of live weight per day).
In addition to and independently of these quantitative factors, the animals must be able to drink in accordance with their bodily needs, i.e., small amounts several times a day.
Naturally, the drinking water has to meet certain chemical and biological standards: excessive dry extract (over 15 gr/litre) can provoke digestive disorders. Strong organic odours can cause the animals' refusal to drink.
Wherever these conditions for watering the stock are not respected, they will inevitably consume less fodder, and their growth will accordingly be compromised.
Unfortunately, in newly set-up installations for feeders and breeders in the developing countries, an all too common occurrence is the flagrant contradiction between intensive-type feed systems (a heavily cereal-based diet), and extensive-type watering systems (the animals are taken once or twice to drink at a fountain or pond outside the housing area).
So whatever housing system is adapted, it must have a drinking-trough within the housing area where the animals can drink as much and as often as they want.
Considering the geographical location of the developing countries, water heating and anti-freeze devices are not usually necessary.
One function of housing is, of course, to ensure the isolation of the stock. They ought to live in the area reserved for them. They should particularly be protected from cohabitation with the other farm animals: poultry, dogs, small ruminants, and from cohabitation with man. Thus isolated, the stock remain calm and the risk of accident and contamination is lessened.
Isolation is ensured by a system of fixed and movable fences, doors and separations setting apart lots of animals of similar weights who will remain together during the complete fattening cycle. Indeed, when different lots are mixed together, the fattening process is disturbed by the ensuing agitation, aggressive behaviour, fighting, climbing of one animal on another, and the like. The result is that less food is consumed, weight is lost, and there may be accidents.
Fencing can provide isolation, but obviously, in the interests of economy or convenience, all sorts of barriers can be used — brick, beeze-block and even puddled-clay (adobe) walls, bars, branches, pickets, metal tubes and the like.
The only rules which have to be scrupulously observed are those concerning: the height of the obstacle. If it is under 160 cm, even young animals will try to get over it. Possible danger from the obstacle: fencing which could hurt the animals such as certain kinds of farm scraps cobbled together. Strength — sometimes frightened animals throw their whole weight onto the barriers. Visibility — the more the animal is aware of the obstacle the more he respects it. This is why barbed wire is discouraged, particularly where animal density is high, as none of the last three conditions are respected with the use of barbed wire.
When young cattle are isolated, their tranquility is assured, and therefore so is the output of fattening and breeding.
In other words, entry into the housing area must always be avoided save for specific operations carried out at specific times and without frightening the animals (spreading straw on the laying area, checking the function of the drinking-troughs, raking dung off the slanted concrete platform, and so forth).
The young cattle will be taken out of the housing area as seldom as possible. Such sorties always result in a drop in performance of several days. For instance, efforts should be made to combine weighing operations with medical and sanitary treatments.
The comfort of the animals consists in providing them with the surroundings most propitious to their development.
First of all, the building must be properly ventilated, that is the air must circulate freely enough to avoid accumulations of carbon dioxide and ammonia from the exhalations and excreta of the stock.
The building must also allow the animals to get enough rest, when they want it, and moderate exercise as well.
The building must also be easily adaptable to the (possibly mechanized) removal of excreta. Where straw is available and manure is prized, the deep litter system where manure accumulates in the housing area and is removed three or four times a year is to be recommended.
But where straw is scarce, or where its use as feed has priority, daily removal of dung is to be recommended. In this case the flooring ought to be concrete (the sloping platform system).
Open yard housing in Europe is frequently based on automatic manure removal by means of overall or partial slatted flooring which allows both dung and urine to pass through the openings by the joint action of trampling and gravity.
The slatted floor technique is not examined in this report for the following reasons:
Slatted flooring is only applicable to open yards with full roofing, the most costly type.
Installation costs for slatted flooring and dung channels are substantial.
The manufacturing of slatted flooring in itself assumes a rather high level of technology.
Such an installation necessarily demands handling equipment (special pumps), storage equipment (dung channel), transport and spreading (special tank trucks). The introduction of the foregoing would seem to be beyond the technical and financial capacities of stockmen raising young cattle in the developing countries at this time.
The advantages of open housing for young cattle, feeders or breeders, are decisive enough for the technique to have spread throughout the cattle-raising countries in the space of the last twenty years.
First of all, we may note that loose housing is the most satisfactory means of filling all the aforementioned housing functions.
Before making a detailed examination of the different advantages of loose over stanchion systems, we ought to briefly review the most oft-mentioned objections to the method as expressed by herdsmen:
The animals are not sufficiently protected from inclement weather: Cattle have a noteworthy capacity to adapt to different environments. Loose housing has worked for milk cows and their calves in regions where the temperature drops below 0°C for several consecutive months, and it has worked in regions where temperature are as high, or higher than, 40°C.
The animals will fight and hurt themselves: When minimum space requirements are met, strictly matched lots (small range of weight difference) and dehorning are usually enough to keep the animals quiet.
Exercise will make the animals lose weight: Quite the contrary. We may well assume that moderate exercise maintains the basic bodily functions, particularly appetite. Stockmen usually understand this and let their animals in stanchion systems have a turn in the farmyard each day.
Light is harmful to the fattening process: There is no technical basis for this oft-made remark. Darkness, on the other hand, offers a number of disadvantages.
With the deep litter system, the animals cannot be kept clean: This is not accurate if there is enough straw in the litter — roughly two kg per animal each day. Besides, an animal's growth is in no way compromised by a patch of dung on the flank.
One advantage of the technique is that the young cattle can be housed in installations requiring, in some cases, no roofing at all and in others a covered surface of one/half to one/third that allotted per animal in stanchion stable systems.
Indeed, with no-roof open housing there is, of course, no covered area at all. With the combination roof/open yard system, 1.5–2 m2 of covered area per animal is adequate, and where the area is fully roofed, the standard figure is 3.5–4m2 per animal.
Stanchion stabling, in contrast, involves a covered area of 4–6 m2 per animal because the feeding passage (which is outside in open yard housing) and the cleaning passage (there is none in loose housing) have to be covered with no advantage to the stock.
This advantage is not only valid for buildings built specially for loose housing for cattle. The technique can also, in fact, make possible the use of such unused or inadequate existing buildings as sheds, conventional buildings, and the like… For instance, when former stanchion stables are utilized as part of the combined loose housing system, their initial accomodation capacity can be doubled or tripled for the same area of roofing.
Roofing is the most expensive item per square metre in construction costs (frame and roof proper). The financial repercussions of this on cattle housing are easily imaginable. It ought to be pointed out that this trend to reduce the construction portion of housing can also be followed with other types of farm buildings, especially silage fodder silos.
One great advantage of loose housing,particularly in areas where straw is scarce, or is used for cattle feed, is the fact that this technique requires only 2 kg/animal/day vs at least 4 kg/animal/day for the stanchion stable system under equivalent conditions of hygiene.
This is a particularly decisive benefit from the standpoint of straw treatment and utilization techniques, making possible the upgrading of the nutritive value of this commodity, which can then be used to substitute fodder.
With the deep litter system, where the litter accumulates over a period of months, not only can one save on straw; an excellent quality of manure is obtained which can be spread directly onto the fields after each periodic cleaning of the housing area.
This is of particular importance in those areas where stockmen are not yet familiar with manure storage, ripening and utilization techniques and where, as a result, large quantities of organic fertilizer are lost to agriculture each year.
When cereal straw is not available, it can be replaced by certain agro-industrial wastes: these products, however, must be structurally capable of absorbing moisture from the excreta. Sawdust, leaves and such are examples.
When no litter is available in situ at the feeder/breeder locale, the best kind of loose housing is the sloping platform which means little or no litter. The technique consists of building a concrete platform with a maximum width of 4 m and an 8 percent slope towards the manager.
The rapid development of loose housing in most of the cattle-raising countries is basically due to the fact that it improves labour efficiency, which means less manpower, which means a more profitable operation.
Conventional stanchion stables often lack a feeding passage, and fodder has to be distributed with a pitchfork whilst moving about among the young cattle. This is disturbing to the animals. Where silage is used, the work is arduous and can even be dangerous for the worker. Moreover, the mangers are not usually capacious enough and so must be filled several times a day.
In contrast, loose housing is so set up that fodder is emptied directly from the wheelbarrow or trailer into the manger from outside the yard. The work is less tiring, easier and quicker.
Nor, where running water is available, is watering a chore. The work is limited to transporting the water in a tank truck where there is no running water.
Lastly, periodic cleaning out of the litter can be done with the fork-lift and limited to two or three operations per year.
In the final analysis, one worker can only care for 15–25 young bulls in stanchion stable systems. With unmechanised loose housing, the figure rises to 50 and to over 100 where an automatic loading trailer for distributing fodder is available.
It should be observed that the improved working conditions possible with open yard housing for young cattle is not merely a quantitative factor. Since the work is less arduous in this kind of installation, more intelligent participation in controlling the animals and in the operation in general can be demanded of the worker.
Despite all logic, it is a common occurence to see stockmen raising or fattening young cattle and tempted to adopt the most costly, inflexible and unwieldy kinds of solutions to animal housing.
Amortization of livestock buildings represents a fixed cost which can vary substantially, according to:
initial installation cost,
utilization method (extent to which building is fully occupied annually),
useful life and repair and maintenance costs.
Loose housing is advantageous as the initial building costs are much lower than those for conventional stanchion stables.
Since the building materials used are light, repair and upkeep of these installations is never very expensive. Moreover, the flexibility of utilization of certain components of the livestock housing (covered parts) will make it possible to eventually use them for other purpose if breeder/feeder production happens to be abandoned.
The initial building costs of loose housing are lower than stanchion stable building costs, for the following reasons:
The extent of covered area: non-existent in no-roof open yards, not extensive in the combined and fully-roofed open yard systems.
Except the shelter wall behind the roofed area, no extensive masonry work is called for, as most partitions will simply be fences.
The floor covering is reduced to the strict minimum and only in certain parts of the housing area.
The materials used in this kind of building can be selected from the most economical available in the region.
Though livestock building costs vary greatly from one region to another, the following estimates can be made: stanchion stable systems cost twice as much as fully-roofed open yards, three times as much as combined systems and five to six times as much as no-roof open yards.
Open yard housing ensures the animals hygiene conditions much superior to those of stanchion stable systems, especially when the buildings used for the latter system are not well-designed for the purpose.
Air circulation is much better than it is in stanchion stable systems. In summer or in hot climates the lack of fresh air and confinement in stables often mean that the air is heavy with ammonia and the temperature so high as to be prejudicial to the animals' health and well-being.
As mentioned before, open yard housing ensures greater comfort for the stock. They can move about freely within the enclosure from the feeding area near the manger to the exercise area and the rest area, where they can lie down and chew their cuds without being disturbed by the rest of the animals in the lot.
Contrary to the widely-held idea that leaving animals free to move about means wasting energy and compromising weight gains, it should be emphasized that a number of comparative studies made in different countries show no significant difference in performance between open yard stock and stock housed in properly designed stanchion stable systems (automatic drinking-bowl, adequate space, etc…).
Classic stables do not usually have facilities for watering the animals. But in loose housing, a permanent drinking-source can be set up in accordance with the animals' needs. The common feed-trough found in loose housing, which can be checked at any time to see if it needs filling, lets the stock feed at their own speed and consume the volume most nearly approaching their own bodily optimum.
In conclusion, the advantages of open yard housing for young cattle in developing countries are so decisive as to virtually preclude recommending the construction of stanchion stable systems which are gradually being abandoned everywhere.
All the more so in that there are several different kinds of open-yard systems. The livestock raiser can select from among them the one best suited to the specific conditions of his production specialization.
Housing livestock is a technique - it must not be imagined that any solutions suggested would be either universal or permanent.
They cannot be universal:
Animal housing has to be adapted to the specific conditions of a region (climate), farm (area, funds, possible use of existing buildings, site conditions) and such technical constraints as the kind of stock-raising system involved, sensitivity of the stock, and what materials are available.
They cannot be permanent:
Due to the highly dynamic nature of the technique, any solution proposed at a given moment for a specific animal housing problem may swiftly prove inadequate. The kind of production may have to be modified. There may be some major change in production techniques.
There are many kinds of open-yard systems for young cattle. Detailed studies have been made on some of these, especially in the temperate-zone countries. Studies based in the dry or rainy hot developing countries are, however, less common.
In making their selection of the three kinds of housing described in this work, the authors drew their inspiration from the following criteria:
Costs must be low: The initial investment must be in line with the financial capacities of the farming establishment and not put the operation too heavily into the red, thus jeopardizing profit-making capacities.
It must be easy to build, simple enough so that the farmer himself, perhaps with the help of regular carpenters or craftsmen, can do it himself.
The installation must be sturdy, requiring little upkeep.
Housing must be such as to make the stockman's work easier, by saving his time and cutting down on the physical efforts which are part of stock-raising.
Housing must ensure the animal's comfort and enable technical performance in line with bodily potential.
Many stockmen find it hard to imagine that stock can be permanently housed in the open and tend to resist the system. It is, however, the economic solution which requires the least investment and can be recommended to stockraisers who have no existing building suited for adaptation for housing but do have a suitable site for open-yard housing.
The critical element in this system is the nature of the soil. Drainage must be perfect so as to avoid the formation of mud which would cut down on cattle performance. Sloping lands with a gradient of 3–10° are preferable. Sandy soils are also usable.
Another desirable feature is trees offering protection from the prevailing winds and shade during the hot season.
The system has proven itself time and again in countries like the United States. There, where climate is often less favourable than in many of the developing countries, the bulk of feeders are fattened in open-yard feedlots.
So the no-roof open-yard system is to be recommended wherever the conditions are appropriate.
Some stockmen think to improve this system by building a shed roof 2–3 m wide over the manger, thinking to thus protect the feed from intemperate weather. In addition to the fact that this extra construction adds substantially to the cost of the installation, thus detracting largely from its advantageousness, the benefit is imaginary. Some of the stock will tend to group together under the shelter to get away from the sun and the rain and in so doing will prevent the others from eating. There is also little point in trying to protect concentrated feed, which is consumed in a few minutes. Nor does it seem necessary to protect the coarse fodders against sun and rain.
The combined system involves a covered area, the lying area, and an outdoor area for feeding and exercise. This is the system generally favoured by stockraisers, as it has all the advantages of fully covered housing at much lower cost (3–4 m of roofing vs 7–8 m with the fully roofed system).
The system must always be oriented in consideration of the direction of prevailing winds. The protected area where the animals can shelter must be against the wind.
Moreover, the combined system offers the great advantage of being easily set up using existing buildings at very little cost.
The old building (shed, stanchion stable, lean-to, etc…), is used for the lying area. The feeding trough is built outside and marks the boundary of the unroofed feeding and exercise area.
It is true that this kind of arrangement has to take into account certain a prioris concerning the space allotted to each animal, circulation passages and floor covering. Once this has been taken care of, the technical person in charge of setting up the new housing for young cattle should always find out whether some old, existing building could not be adapted for combined system open housing before recommending the construction of a completely new building of whatever type.
Lastly, stockmen are often tempted to modify the initial design of this kind of housing by building the manger under the covered section and not in the open part of the yard, thinking to thus protect the feed from bad weather as well as protecting the animals. This mistake, which consists of superimposing the feeding area (along the manger) on the resting area (under the roof), leads to the most harmful consequences. The animals lying under the shelter prevent the others from getting to the trough to feed. Not only that, the animals eliminate waste mostly when they feed, and so the roofed area of the yard soon becomes an impassable mire. And as has been mentioned, there is little point in protecting feed against sun and rain. So the covered part of the housing is to be set aside as a resting area for the stock.
As indicated by its name, full roofing is housing completely protected by a roof extending as much as 2 m above the manger.
As in the combined system, the building is oriented so that the part opposite the manger is against the prevailing winds.
Since the entire structure is covered (lying, exercise and feeding areas), the area allotted each animal is substantially reduced with respect to the other two systems.
Covered area per animal, on the contrary, is twice that of the combined system. Roof depth is double that of the preceding system, and so this kind of structure needs a frame with a carrying strength of 6–8 m, implying the use of sturdier, and hence more costly, materials.
In addition, fully-roofed housing imposes constraints as to the kind of drinking-trough to be installed.
On the other hand, this kind of structure is adaptable to any kind of ground, and concrete flooring is not usually necessary. The sides of the structure are made of movable fences, there are no stationary fences.
However, in view of its costs, this kind of housing will only be recommended under highly specific conditions:
when the kind of soil or available room make other types of housing impossible;
when the climate is an unusually rainy one, with prolonged periods of cold and violent winds;
when constant use of the housing can be planned (near-instant replacement of new lots of stock at the end of the breeding/ fattening cycle).
when the production specialization is such as to be able to envision long-term (roughly ten years) utilization of the housing.
As this latter item is virtually impossible to anticipate, it is always a good idea to employ the most flexible solutions in building fully-roofed systems. The building should be able to be either remodeled or even purely and simply moved somewhere else should the production specialization be abandoned (movable troughs, frame easily dismantled, ground left uncovered…).
Respect of space norm requirements is a must; the effectiveness of the housing depends on it.
These minimum standards concern the room which must be available to each animal when the entire lot is lined up in front of the manger (trough space) and the space available to each, which is calculated by dividing the total housing area by the number of animals present (ground area).
If these standards are not respected and the building overfilled with stock, a series of negative phenomena which can compromise the technical outcome of the operation will result. These are: nervousness, competitiveness and aggressiveness among the animals, a mud-pit for a floor due to the overpopulation, frequent accidents, destruction of the installations and a drop in performance.
There are no maximum standards other than those dictated by economic necessity, which determines that the amortization costs of a building used at half capacity doubles per head or per kg of growth compared to a building used at full capacity.
The ideal building shape is the square. In fact, a long, rectangular building can create what is called the “corridor effect”. The animals are disturbed in their movements from feeding to lying area and the width of the exercise area is smaller relative to the square shape. This is a situation encouraging aggressiveness and favouring the dominance of the strongest.
Housing area can be calculated from room at the trough, ground area and the square shape of the yard, and this gives the number of head which can be accomodated.
It should be pointed out, however, that the standards governing the number of animals in a lot are less rigid than those which have been formulated for length of trough and ground area per animal. Nonetheless, rather large lots can raise problems of supervision and handling. More qualified personnel may be required.
Minimum space standards per head have been set for each of the three loose housing systems based on observations of studies which have been carried out over a period of several years in many of the cattle-raising countries. They should be thought of as imperatives. If these standards are not respected, the consequences for proper utilization of the building and sometimes for the technical performances and economic yield of fattening operations can be very serious.
Minimum manger space per head is 50 cm no matter which system is selected. With less space, the risk is arousing competetiveness among the different animals in the lot. The strongest young bulls may prevent the lighter ones from getting to eat (especially concentrates which are distributed in small amounts and consumed rapidly). For animals with a liveweight of over 500 kg., trough space per animal should be lengthened to 60 cm.
In most cases, housing capacity will be determined by the length of the trough. It is therefore important to:
For new housing, avoid any sort of arrangement blocking access to the manger such as setting up drinking-bowls (of any type) less than 3 m away from the manger.
For readapted old buildings, the manger can be made longer than the building to which it has been annexed. Frontal access to the housing by gates will be avoided whenever possible as these would necessarily shrink the length of the manger (see pps 54–55).
In setting up the feeding-trough protection devices, care must be taken to avoid the use of improper or improperly used materials (overly large or badly finished withers bar, manger too low, withers bar too close to manger). (See pps 78–83). These devices must not hinder access to the trough thus making the animals more competetive about getting their feed.
It must be emphasized that the fully open yard system is only to be recommended for very well-drained soils with swift runoff after even the heaviest rains.
In this kind of system, the ground area per head must be 10 m2, which means that at a rate of 50 cm space at the trough, a well drained fully open yard would have a depth of about 20 m.
Where drainage is not very effective and the water tends to stand in the yard, economy reasons may yet determine the choice of the no-roof open yard system. Should this be the case, it may be necessary to up the figure of ground area per head to 20 or even 30 m2. At a rate of 50 cm space at the trough, a badly drained fully open yard may have a depth of 40–60 m.
In the first instance, trough length (equal to depth) will be 20 meters and the housing will be able to accomodate 40 head.
In the second instance, with the dimensions of the housing area as much as 40 or even 60 m, it will be able to accomodate 80–120 animals.
But it must be stressed that yard capacity cannot be expanded indefinitely. While it is true that each American feedlot can accomodate 150–300 head, the situation is different in the developing countries. Herds of this size require highly specialized supervision, which might well not be available.
To facilitate operations and individual observation of the stock, it seems preferable to limit the capacity of completely open yards to 40–50 head maximum.
Construction of new housing. The combined system clearly requires less space per head of young cattle. For a roofed area of 1.5–2 m, the outside area can be a mere 2 m2, or a total of 3.5–4 m2/head.
The most desirable shape for the housing being the square, a trough length of 7–8 m equal to the depth of the yard gives an optimum figure of 14–16 head in a lot.
Using these standards, the depth of the roofed part of the housing can also be determined: at a trough space rate of 50 cm/head, the roofing is only 3–4 m deep.
Remodelling existing buildings, where the combined system is the best one. Here the problem is different:
When the total depth of the housing is less than 7 meters, the limiting factor becomes the ground area. Even if manger length then exceeds 50 cm/head, the determining factor in calculating the number of head/lot will be ground area.
When the depth of the housing is more than 8 meters, manger length becomes the limiting factor determining the number of head/lot, even if the ground area allotted to each is then more than 2 m2 roofed and 2 m2 open yard.
When the only communication between the covered and the open area is by gates, which is common in the remodelling of former stanchion stables to open yard systems, housing capacity can be calculated by measuring the covered area and dividing by 2 (2 m2 roofed area/head). The necessary manger length will be calculated at 50 cm/head.
This manger, which has been set up outside 4 meters from the wall of the old building, will sometimes have to be longer than the building. This is no problem, except that a few more meters of permanent fencing will have to be set up. When this happens the design sometimes has to be changed to a slightly rectangular shape so as to better utilize the covered area. The width is then represented by the long side of the rectangle and the depth by the shorter side. In this case, a combination-type housing can accommodate 20–25 head/lot, assuming, of course, that standards on manger space and ground area allotments per head have been respected.
Full roofing is the system which allows the highest concentrations of young bulls, since only 2.5–3 m2 of ground area/head is sufficient. But precisely because it is fully roofed, it is also the costliest system.
Since the square is the desirable shape for this kind of housing as well, a manger length of 5–6 m equal to the depth of the yard gives an optimum figure of 10–12 animals/lot.
We have to remember that the two-metre shed roof over the front part of the yard (over the feeding-trough) ups the covered area/ head to 3.5–4 m2. This shed roof is intended to keep rain and mud out of the covered area rather than to protect the feed in the trough.
Under these conditions, the depth of the roof will have to be from 7–8 m.
Where old buildings have been remodelled, it is often easier to adopt this system, especially if the building is closed on all four sides, because it is not usually wide enough to allow enough room for a feeding passage and to house the animals. Likewise, it is often difficult to work out the circulation of the animals. In such a case, a total minimum width of 9 m is imperative.
If the old building is closed on only three sides, such as a tool shed, it can be relatively easy to set up a fully roofed loose housing system if there is sufficient depth (± 5–6 m minimum). But there may be some problem with manure removal if entrance from the sides of the building is not possible. When the sides of the building are walled (whether three walls or four), then lightweight materials are called for when building the mangers so that they can be removed to let in a tractor and forklift to remove manure (see pps. 68–69). Removal by hand is difficult, though not inconceivable. Minimum height at the lowest part of the shed must be 2.5 m.
Livestock housing design concepts can be very flexible as, for instance, in the selection of materials to be used.
The three basic systems described before also make possible the adaptation of housing to specific, individual farm conditions.
However, as we have just seen, there are standards which must be maintained, particularly those concerning space/head, an essential prerequisite. Equally essential are the rounds which must be planned for if utilization of the building is to be satisfactory. There are three distinct rounds corresponding to activities which must be carried out periodically:
Feed distribution, which is done twice a day, and drinking-water distribution where a piped-in supply is not available.
Manure removal, which is done daily where straw is not available and several times a year where the deep litter system is used.
Moving and handling cattle, especially for weighing, but also for any other operation for which the animals have to be moved out of the yard.
The importance of these rounds or circuits cannot be overstressed. It can even be said that the design concept of the building must be planned around them. None of them should ever be sacrificed with the excuse of expanding the capacity of the housing, for instance, or making use of an already existing fence or shelter.
In fact most of the problems that arise with respect to these circuits have to do with remodelling existing buildings for loose housing. In such a case, the solutions found must respect these circuits. Where this cannot be done, the building should not be used for loose housing.
When young cattle are fed with fodder supplemented by concentrates, this means four feed distributions a day, not counting the transport of drinking-water for storage-tank watering-troughs.
In systems excluding daily manure removal, the bulk of the work to be done in raising young cattle is involved with feed distribution. This is why a feeding passage must be set up and floored, as it is a major factor bearing on labour costs for feeding or breeding.
The feeding passage is laid out parallel to the manger: in such a manner as to allow the circulation of all kinds of mechanical devices. It must be four m. wide and straight, or at least not too curved to let the trailer run along the outer edge of the trough without bumping into anything.
Since the feeding passage is the most oft-used circuit, particular attention must be paid to it, especially when remodelling old buildings. For instance, it is unacceptable to build a manger closer than one meter to a wall, with the idea that the workers can transport the feed by hand. In such a case, the design concept of the remodelled building will just simply have to be modified.
The feeding passage must be adaptable for use by trailers (preferably animal-drawn) in all weather and all seasons. A prerequisite, then, is that the passage be practicable under all circumstances. It is recommended that the ground be blocked up with rubble and then rolled flat with some mechanical device, and paved or asphalted (see p. 65).
Though the supply of cattle feed is not, properly speaking, a housing problem, the problem does arise of storing the feed and the distance which must be crossed between the storage and distribution areas.
As a general rule, the feed storage area will be as close as possible to the housing (fodder shed, concentrate storage, fodder silos, etc.…).
When enough straw is available (2 kg/head/day), loose housing is best adapted to the deep litter system, which consists of allowing manure to accumulate, cleaning out the housing only 3 or 4 times a year. What happens is that the dung, which is constantly being trampled by the cattle, is very compressed. After a few months there is a substantial volume of a very heavy, compact product.
Whenever possible, it is highly advantageous to mechanize the operation. Prerequisites for mechanization are access for a tractor and trailer and a front-lift tractor forklift, and ease of circulation within the housing. For the equipment to circulate within the housing area, there must be a service passage alongside the trough measuring 4 m in width and with no obstacles. The service passage must be continuous, i.e., it must go from one side of the housing to the other so that the tractor can go in one side and come out the other.
There is no special problem with the service passage in the fully open yard system, except for the establishment of movable fences 4 m wide, preferably right behind the manger, where most of the dung collects.
In the combined system, the service passage corresponds to the area outdoors and between the manger and the roofed-over area.
In the fully-roofed system, the service passage of course runs under the covered area.
Where straw is not available, on the other hand, or has to be used for feed, it is best to use the sloping platform system.
This consists of raking the dung daily underneath the manger and out of the yard. The savings on straw are certainly offset by the work involved. It is wearisome for the worker and disturbing to the animals.
Even where the sloping platform system is used, it is best to take the precaution of setting up movable fences allowing access to the service passage.
The function of the access door is to let workers and cattle in and out of the housing area.
Young cattle will use the door rather infrequently:
Workers may use this door daily:
The access door is built into the back of the building, opposite the manger. It thus allows access through the closed-up area of combined or fully-roofed systems.
The door is 1 m wide by 2 m high. It is built into one corner of the back wall so as to facilitate the exit of the lot. It will lead directly into the circulation and holding passage which must be annexed to all types of loose housing systems (see pps.103–107).
Where existing buildings are being remodelled, and especially where former stanchion stables are being used for the roofed area of combined systems, it is often quite impossible to work in an access door. What must be done in such a case is to plan for frontal or lateral access for workers and cattle:
lateral access by means of movable fences belonging to the service passage, an imperative which must, in all cases, be respected;
frontal access, which certain kinds of arrangements may make inevitable. In this extreme case, there is the following alternative choice: