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All you need to know about cattle B&Bs

In this article, That’s Farming speaks to Martina Harrington, Teagasc cattle, specialist about cattle B&Bs, which are an arrangement between two farmers where one farmer agrees to rent a shed to another farmer to house their animals.

Conditions/regulations
Movements to a holding for feeding purposes have historically been counted as a farm residency movement.

Keepers can apply online for a Certificate of Compliance to move an animal to another holding using agfood.ie online services or any other government-approved farm software.

Those who prefer to do things manually rather than online farmers can complete a form NBAS 31A (that is available a Regional Veterinary Office) and submit it to the Cattle Movement Notification Agency in Clonakilty.

“Both parties must have active herd numbers and maintain an up-to-date herd register. As per DAFM rules, before the animals move, the herd owner must complete an AIM certificate of compliance.”

“This form lists all the animals to be moved along with the source herd and the destination herd. All animals being moved must be properly tagged. Only the animals on the list can move.”

“The animals must move directly from the source holding to the destination holding. All animals moved must comply with all animal health/movement regulations including those relating to TB & BVD i.e., they must be in test. If one of the herds goes down with TB, both go down. You cannot move animals that show any visible signs of disease or ill health.”

“If you are moving calves less than 10-days-old you must declare that the navels of calves less than 10-days-old are healed. The journey planned is less than 100km. That the movement is necessary and in the best welfare interest of the calves. The blue cards must also move with the animals. You must update your herd register to show the movement in and out of the herd.”

Martina advises to be aware of movements for the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme. B&B movements count as a movement; in this case, you have two.

“You are only allowed four in the lifetime of the animal to be eligible for the QPS bonus. Also, be aware of the 60–90-day residency pre-slaughter. The animal must be on the farm from which it is slaughtered for 60 – 90 days depending on the factory to qualify for the QPS bonus.”

Advantages

Martina feels there are advantages on both sides of a cattle B&B agreement. For example, for the farmer who has a shed but no stock, they can get an income from an existing asset.

Also, they may get the slurry, which can be very useful especially, if this is a tillage farm.If the shed owner is also producing silage they can sell the silage to the herd owner and it can be a further income.

“For the renter, they do not have to invest huge capital to build a shed. They may be able to use the rented shed as they build stock numbers, so they spread their costs.”

“When they build a shed, they have the stock to put in it. For farmers who buy in silage, they are bringing the animal to the silage rather than transporting the silage to the animal.”

Disadvantages of cattle B&Bs

Although there are advantages, there are also some disadvantages to cattle B&Bs for example the herd owner may have to travel a distance to the shed; or the facilities may not be up to scratch.

“If the shed owner is responsible for the management, you are dependent on the shed owner doing a good job and being a good stock person to get good performance. This does not always work out.”

“You may lose your slurry, which is very high in Phosphorous and Potassium, if the shed is too far away to transport slurry back to the home farm. If stated in the agreement, you may need to clean the shed immediately when finished, this may be inconvenient as there may be a lot of other work going on on the farm at that time.

For both parties, there is an increased risk of bringing disease onto your own farm, especially if you have been a closed herd up to now.

“You should talk to your vet and discuss what vaccination programme if any should be introduced etc. TB restrictions are always a worry when you are mixing two herds, so you need to talk to your DVO on the most recent TB restrictions.”

TB

Martina stressed if either herd tests positive for TB, both are restricted.

“An animal may not be moved out of a restricted herd other than for slaughter. The Department of Agriculture has shown leniency on an animal welfare basis e.g., where dairy heifers have calved down on beef farms where there are no facilities to milk them.

However, the DAFM (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) has warned that this is based on both herds having a low disease risk. So, both parties in the agreement need to assess where their level of risk is. The new TB categories will aid in this.”

Compensation

According to Martina, for a herd to qualify for compensation, all animals moved into the herd must have had a 30-day pre-movement test.

“Also, in your agreement ensure to deal with compensation for positive animals and what to do with inconclusive reactors in the on-farm agreement.”

“Currently, the DAFM pay the compensation to the farmer on which the cattle reside when tested. If an animal is tested and is inconclusive, if they test clear on a retest, they cannot be moved off the farm on which they were tested inconclusive unless it’s for slaughter or with a permit directly to a feedlot.”

“Currently TB, rules are being updated so, check with your local DVO before entering into any agreement. For the shed owner, there is extra wear and tear on the shed.”

“If the cattle owner is feeding the animals, you are dependent on them, not damaging your shed. There is an increased risk of disease entering your farm. You must notify your insurance company of the change.”

Guidance – Cattle B&Bs

The Teagasc advisor highlighted the importance to always draw up a detailed agreement that covers the following:

  • How are you going to get paid, is it monthly in advance (this is the preferred option in most cases.).
  • How is the payment going to be made to you standing order is the best option?
  • Is the shed to be power hosed and clean when cattle enter the shed and who is responsible for this.
  • The number of cattle to be housed.
  • The length of time they are to be housed.
  • The daily cost of housing.
  • How is electric and water to be charged for?
  • Is silage included?
  • How is the amount of silage fed to be recorded?
  • What is the cost of this silage?
  • Is meal to be fed?
  • Who buys the meal?
  • Also, who is responsible for feeding the animals?
  • Who is responsible for dosing, vaccinating, etc.?
  • Who is responsible for the performance and what is an acceptable level of performance?
  • If there are heifers being housed, will the shed owner be expected to check for bulling and be responsible for A.I?
  • Will there be an extra charge for this as animals have to be handled more?
  • Will animals be weighed?
  • How is mortality to be dealt with?
  • Are the facilities okay and checked pre-housing?
  • Who is responsible for any damage caused to the shed?
  • When is the shed to be cleaned after housing and who is responsible?
  • Who is responsible for the slurry/FYM?
  • How will a TB outbreak be dealt with especially concerning compensation and inconclusive animals?
  • If there are issues that both parties cannot agree on, is there an agreed mediator?
Are cattle B&Bs cost-effective for all parties (livestock owner and owner of the accommodation)?

Martina believes cattle B&Bs can be cost-effective for all parties.

“Teagasc have produced a document on the cost of B&B. The big issue seems to be the value placed on the silage fed. If you look at a 350kg weanling, they could be eating €1 -€1.25 worth of silage per day when silage is valued at 19cents per kg DM (that is production costs of 16 cents per Kg of DM + a 20% margin).”

“This does not include rent for the shed, electricity, water, labour if being fed by the shed owner, use of machinery, etc., which could add another €1 + depending on what is involved. So is the shed owner being fairly compensated for the shed or just covering the cost of silage?

For the herdowner, they have to balance the cost of renting a shed against the cost of building a new shed, but they also have to look at the saving in labour.

Further information

Find out more information on budgeting costs here.

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