Farm & livestock buildings : Can you make improvements?
Well-designed farm and livestock buildings can have a lasting impact on animal health and productivity, so it is worth looking at your current set up and investing in any necessary improvements. Sarah Kidby spoke to Riva Commercial about the benefits of insulation.
Optimising livestock buildings can help to reduce disease, improve animal welfare and boost efficiency, as well as creating a better working environment for staff. While there are many factors to consider when it comes to good building design, AHDB states the three key environmental parameters are air speed, moisture and fresh air.
Proper insulation and ventilation are needed to maintain a stable temperature and prevent condensation caused by the heat and moisture animals produce through their breath, sweat, urine and faeces. If heat is unable to leave the building, it will condense on cold surfaces inside, increasing humidity and making bedding cold and damp – creating a suitable environment for bacteria to thrive. Excess moisture in the air also escalates the risk of viruses and bacteria surviving outside the body, while reducing ambient temperature and increasing the need for bedding. As well as cutting down heating bills in winter and cooling costs in summer, insulation can reduce condensation on walls and ceilings by keeping surfaces warm.
Cattle need to maintain a constant body temperature of around 38ºC, and this can be affected by air temperature, radiant temperature, wind speed and relative humidity, alongside animal factors such as size, feed level and type, and body condition. If temperatures fall below the lower critical temperature (LCT – minus 15ºC), feed will be channelled away from growth and milk production to keep animals warm. Insulation is important for tackling draughts, which will decrease the LCT considerably and cause loss of heat energy. Ventilation is also needed to remove heat and moisture from the building.
Conversely, above the upper critical temperature (UCT – 25ºC), cattle will sweat to dispel excess heat and may suffer heat stress. Dairy cows under heat stress reduce their feed intake, leading to lower milk production and reduced growth. This also has a detrimental effect on reproduction. If ambient temperatures rise above the UCT, Nadis suggests milk yields can fall by as much as 20 per cent.
Increasing evidence indicates that even relatively low temperatures during the summer months in the UK can lead to reduced feed intakes, lower milk yields, impaired fertility and a greater risk of mastitis and embryonic loss. Relative humidity in the UK is frequently above 80 per cent in summer, according to Nadis, and nears 100 per cent in poorly designed winter accommodation, so the effects of heat stress could be a growing problem for dairy farmers.
While there are many factors to consider when ensuring livestock buildings are fit for purpose, Riva Commercial says insulation is a key, cost effective way to not only reduce energy bills, but also maintain a constant temperature and prevent condensation, helping to optimise animal welfare and productivity.
Riva Commercial installs Revivatherm closed cell spray foam insulation which, according to the company’s senior commercial partner Mark Mann, helps to maintain a stable temperature – keeping buildings warm in winter and cool in summer. Riva says the product can prevent overheating in summer, improves indoor air quality and offers protection from severe weather and flooding resistance. It also promises zero condensation and up to 60 per cent reductions in heat losses, cutting energy bills in half by reducing the need for heating in winter and fans in summer. Liquid installation allows access to critical, inaccessible or curved areas, sealing off gaps and air leaks, while stabilising and encapsulating asbestos and tin roofs – making them Class 1 fire retardent and up to 300 per cent more stable. The product also has no food value for vermin.
Proud to supply British farmers
Graham Heath Construction supplies steel framed buildings for the agricultural, industrial and equestrian industries and has grown significantly since its opening in 2003.
The team can design, supply and fit a steel framed building for a customer as an ‘off-the-shelf’ design or a fully bespoke build, and will beat any genuine like-for-like quotation (T&Cs apply). Due to company expansion, Graham Heath Construction says it can now guarantee delivery in six to eight weeks from the date of order confirmation.
The company is proud to supply British farmers with their CE-marked steel framed buildings and to be a UK manufacturer, with all materials being manufactured on-site in South Cheshire. It also has a fleet of drivers for nationwide delivery.
With a strong farming heritage, Graham Heath Construction understands the agricultural industry inside out and always strives to provide its customers with the highest quality, value-for-money solution. From grain stores and livestock sheds to workshops and straw stores, they currently have several promotional offers running on a range of farm buildings.
An economic alternative to under-floor ducts
FloorVent under-floor ventilation, from manufacturer Martin Lishman, is a cost-saving cooling system for new floors, new stores, hopper-bottomed bins and silos. It combines the benefits of grain pedestals and cooling fans with the need to make store handling and filling easier.
Including a perforated pedestal tube with a conical cap to deflect grain during filling, the tube connects to an under-floor duct via a base plate in a recess in the concrete floor. When the store is empty, a drain cover placed over the recess leaves the floor completely multi-purpose.
FloorVent suits deep grain stores where logistics and safety considerations make moving fans between pedestals difficult.
Key benefits include direct heat extraction, with hot air vents directly outside the building so there is no need for building extraction fans; and easier filling with less chance that ducts will move. When pushing up or levelling the grain, there is no tube protruding from the grain that could be damaged. Martin Lishman says installation of FloorVent is low cost and can be done in a fraction of the time of traditional under-floor systems. It combines cost-effective cooling with low capital cost per tonne, the company adds.
Farmers set up to booming construction business
Essex farmers Will King and Johnnie Jiggens set up K & J Construction Ltd six months ago, after finding a cost-effective solution to their own building projects. Farmers Guide caught up with them to find out more.
Since opening for business last year, K & J Construction said it has been overwhelmed by uptake from farmers and business “couldn’t be better”. Co-owner Will King, who is part of co-operative Wix Farms with two other farmers, said they were looking to put up various sheds over the next two to three years, including potato and grain stores and cattle sheds. While exploring the best, most cost-effective solution, it was recommended that they use their own skills and experience to design and construct the buildings, which led to a partnership with business manager Mark Finney.
They wanted to provide a service for farmers, by farmers, using their knowledge of what is required of agricultural buildings, as they are not only providers of the service, but customers as well. Ultimately, they believe customers are looking for a fantastic service at a reasonable price, as well as the continuation of contact after the point of sale – dealing with the same contact throughout the process.
Johnnie said that between them they have overseen the construction of many farm buildings on their own farms over the years – covering as much as 30,000 sq. ft – and while they do not fault the build quality of the companies they have used, much of the discussions were carried out over the phone, as opposed to face-to-face on the farm. K & J pride themselves on offering that personal, one-to-one service with their clients.
With a full order book, the company has a variety of new projects coming up, including cattle sheds, grain stores, cold stores, general purpose buildings and workshops. Plus, there is currently a growing demand for industrial units in their local area, they added.
In addition to the design, construction and supply of agricultural, industrial and equestrian steel frame buildings, the company – which now has CE marking approval – offers to handle planning permission applications and provides industrial structural calculations.
Supplies for farm and livestock buildings
Rhino Steel Cladding Limited supplies all major types of roofing sheets and wall cladding sheets, including galvanised steel, fibre cement and GRP fibreglass rooflights that provide a durable, long-lasting and maintenance-free investment for over 30 years. The company also supplies steel purlins for the framework of the building and all fixings, flashings and accessories.
Fibre cement roofing sheets are perfect for farm and livestock buildings, the company says, with excellent thermal properties to help keep a consistent temperature inside by absorbing the weather outside, preventing condensation problems. Perforated and ventilated steel cladding sheets are also well suited to these types of buildings, as they allow airflow and natural daylight through, as well as methane gas dispersal. Meanwhile, the GRP Fibreglass Roof Lights increase natural daylight inside, creating a better working and living environment. The rooflights can be used on their own or in conjunction with any of the company’s steel or fibre cement roofing sheets.
A delivery service is available throughout the UK on a 7–10 working day turnaround. Deliveries can also be collected from the West Midlands depot where a wide range of pre-cut profiled steel roofing sheets, wall cladding sheets, fibre cement sheets, rooflights, flashings, fixings and accessories are stocked.
Protecting your assets
The importance of well designed, well-built buildings for agricultural use is often hard to quantify in terms of the impact on business. A poorly-ventilated shed can impact the growth of stock, leading to reductions in productivity and therefore increases in mortality, hindering profits. Movement and handling of stock between buildings and competition for feed and water should also be carefully considered when looking at building or redesigning an existing building.
Investment in modern buildings is only part of the battle, however, as we have seen a massive increase in the amount of thefts from farms and also the prevalence of activists, which can have a massive impact – not just on the financial aspects of the farm, but perhaps more importantly the mental wellbeing of its inhabitants.
With more than 50 years of livestock marketing experience, Anglia Quality Meats (AQM) has built a range of partnerships to help farmers tackle these issues and provide bespoke on-farm specialist advice. AQM offers a complete service for the efficient production, management and marketing of livestock.
Partnerships with leading agricultural insurers and financial advisors mean that it can also help to ensure the correct cover is in place. Through Active Farm Solutions the company offers advice and products for securing, monitoring and protecting the farm and its assets.
Don’t forget to leak-test storage plants
Loss of refrigerant gas can be a common problem in farm storage buildings and means refrigerated crop storage doesn’t work as effectively as it should, leading to loss of stock. Welch Refrigeration inspects equipment, determines why and where the plant is losing refrigerant and carries out repairs to get it up and running as soon as possible. The Ipswich-based company specialises in the design, installation, maintenance and repair of refrigerated crop storage.
Welch engineers, which are on-hand 24/7, also leak-check plants regularly to ensure farms meet their F-Gas regulations, and can advise on how often to leak-test, based on the quantity and type of refrigerant gas in the plant. It also offers advice on
gas conversions to refrigerant gases with lower global warming potential (GWP).
Crop storage plants can have problems with compressors and electric motors, the company adds, so it provides an overhaul service of compressor and electric motors to keep plants running efficiently during the season.
When farms are ready to shut plants down at the end of the season, Welch isolates the plant to prevent any refrigerant leakages during shutdown. When the plants are ready to be started up again, it carries out a full service to check for problems and carry out repairs where necessary, to ensure the plant runs efficiently throughout the season.
A new era for buildings company
Mark Allen took over the running of Johnstruct – which supplies, installs and refurbishes steel-framed buildings – after the sad passing of his father Richard a year ago. Farmers Guide caught up with him to talk about his journey with the company.
Q. How has the last year been, since you took over the company?
A. The last year has been an emotional roller coaster, trying to do right by my father whilst learning on the job as it were. The loyalty and incredible support from the majority of suppliers has been unbelievable.
Q. What is the most interesting project you’ve worked on recently?
A. All our jobs are really interesting in their own way. I love the variety and difference between projects – thus far, not one job has been the same. One of the most challenging pieces of work lately has been quoting to undertake a seven-cattle barn building project on a farm near Cambridge. The site borders the Fens, has extremely poor soil bearing capacity (for foundations) and is located within a complex drainage network. This is challenging, as rightly or wrongly I do most of the high-level design upfront – this allows me to more accurately price up materials and labour, in order to not go back to the customer for additional funds later in the project. This is important to me as I don’t like ‘unknowns’ or surprises.
Q. Can you tell us about the drone technology you offer?
A. The drone was originally purchased to capture different perspectives of our builds for marketing purposes, and to aid suppliers or site discussion. However, we have used it loads recently – in the main to safely and remotely survey building roof damage from the recent storms and also to undertake valley gutter/roof inspections. We successfully used our drone to confirm the underlying route of a high-pressure gas main across a greenfield site. We are positive that this added-value service reduces risk and emphasises work force/customer safety.
Q. What does the future hold for Johnstruct?
A. Historically our focus has predominately been agricultural building. However, the trend for farmers and land owners to diversify their business creates opportunities for Johnstruct moving forward. Johnstruct is extremely considered in its building design approach and asks the question: “What could this building possibly be used for in 10, 20 or even 40 years’ time?”
It’s not necessarily just about what materials we’ll use or the building size, it is also about considering building location; positioning/orientation; the environment; and listening to and understanding our customers’ current needs versus their aspirations. In my father’s time he worked with the grandparents and parents. I see a clear trend of working more with the sons and daughters. The world in which we live and the technology within it has changed dramatically from the pre-boomer era to the millennials. Fundamentally, Johnstruct will always aim to provide a high-quality service and product no matter what the building requirement or need.
Complete construction service
With more than 200 years of combined experience, Suffolk-based company Ashwell Construction Ltd says it can manage, design, construct and implement all forms of agricultural, commercial and civil engineering projects.
This can include full construction of the building, including the steel structure and cladding, internal grain walls, mechanical and electrical installation, doors and all external hardstandings. It also covers groundworks, construction of foundations, positioning holding down bolts with GPS surveying equipment and constructing the floor slab to the client’s specification. Additionally, a topographical survey of the site, soil investigation and foundation design are all available.
Other services include: both permanent and temporary road construction and accesses; interceptors, water harvesting and septic tank installation; hedge/tree removal and ground clearance; site clearance/land clearing and management; equestrian facility construction (including walking tracks and ménages); ditch management and remediation; pond and lake restoration; muck pads and storage areas; and installing or improving services.
Ashwell Construction is also involved in the renewable energy sector and can construct silage pads, wind turbine bases and groundworks to anaerobic digester plants.
However large or small the project, the company says it can offer safe and high-quality installation and construction, while also maintaining value for money.
Plan for livestock lighting
A family business, Lojer LED Lighting was established 1985 and has been involved with LED technology for nearly 25 years. The company designed its first LED lights for farms over 10 years ago, with a focus especially on dairy and cubicle sheds.
Lojer states its LED lights use high quality components, including those from Samsung and Osram, to give the lights the highest efficiency and longest possible life expectancy. These are manufactured to EN/British Standards with strong polycarbonate bodies, special silicon sealing gaskets and stainless-steel brackets and clips, making them IP66 water- and fume-proof, high impact- and flame-resistant.
The company also offers a lighting plan service, whereby they calculate the minimum number and size of lights to provide the required light levels. Lojer also claims it will guarantee the optimum lighting level for your needs, and ensure there aren’t more LEDs than necessary – saving on purchase costs and reducing power wastage for the foreseeable future.
According to the company, they can cut your electric bill in half, plus help save even more energy with programmable clocks so they are only on when you need the light, and light sensors for bright days which turn the lights off when the ambient level is more than enough.
Refurbishing your old farm buildings
Farm buildings often fall into disrepair as they withstand the elements year after year, and refurbishing your existing building to enhance its appearance and extend its life is often lower cost than a new build. From roof cladding repairs and removal of asbestos cladding, to upgrading thermal efficiency or improving the building’s aesthetics, Tey Farm Systems says it has a specialist team to help. According to the company, its team are experts in the refurbishment of old steel and concrete framed buildings and pride themselves on creating the best design for both you and your business.
Essex-based Tey Farm Systems specialises in the design, build and refurbishment of high-quality farm buildings – from grain stores and workshops, to cattle buildings and straw barns. The company says it is one of only a handful to offer complete project management from the initial planning stages through to construction and completion, by offering in-house maintenance tailored to customers’ individual needs.
It offers a free, initial appraisal visit from which you can choose any number of follow up services offered. The company carries out any necessary planning applications before erecting, cladding, installing and supplying the building. All work is carried out to the same standards as would be applied to a new build.
Planning permission for buildings proposals
Despite recent political upheaval with Brexit, future trading agreements, the Agricultural Bill and climate change, the need for UK farmers to produce food remains. Buildings are key to this and need to be fit for purpose and suited to modern farming.
Rural planning consultants and designers Acorus say they have a wealth of experience in advising clients on meeting the building needs of their business, whether that be agricultural or as part of a diversification proposal.
For new farm buildings, there are options available in terms of the route through the planning system. A decision can be made early on whether to use permitted development rights. For holdings above 5ha, legislation allows buildings covering 1,000m². There are a number of restrictions which need to be considered and it must be shown that the development is reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture, and justified as such. Under permitted development rights, there is still a prior approval process to go through.
Planning applications for agricultural buildings should be treated positively even in the Green Belt where agricultural buildings are not inappropriate. However, issues such as landscape impact, pollution, highways and access all need addressing with any application, and in some cases an Environmental Statement will be required.
If you are considering a new farm building, new farmstead or relocation of an existing farm, including the potential for on-site accommodation, you can contact Acorus for advice and assistance on the planning process.
Energy-saving fan set popular with users
The Evolution fan from Evans and Pearce first launched in 2011 and has since proven to be a popular choice for pedestal ventilation, the company says. Conventional fans for pedestals generally use a 1,100W motor, which is capable of ventilating around 250t/unit. The Evolution fan, on the other hand, uses a 350W motor to ventilate the same tonnage.
Efficiencies are gained through the brushless motor technology, which reduces mechanical energy loss when driving the motor; and the backward-curved impeller, which has lower energy demands compared to the forward-curved type commonly used in portable grain cooling fans.
Since the introduction of the new Grain Fan Assist controller in 2017, the fan can also wirelessly control building ventilation fans. In practice, it detects when running conditions are suitable, turns itself on and engages the building extraction fan to ensure warm air from the crop is expelled from the grain store.
According to the company, users appreciate Evolution’s reliability, low voltage start-up and the ease of moving it around the grain store. The integral controller is a bonus as the unit arrives with its automation in place, so there are no electrician or controller costs. Motor longevity has been impressive, the company adds, with just one failure out of 700 sold.
Managing director Rob White said: “The system just makes sense when people see it for the first time. Fans react to grain conditions local to the pedestal. Energy input is low, moving the fan is easier and control is built into the fan.
“As with all our fan products the units are Devon-built, with components sourced from the UK and Europe for supply chain stability.”