How does agricultural building design affect animal welfare?
There are many variables to consider in order to achieve high standards in animal welfare, from types of feed through to the structures built to house the animals.
While the specific requirements for each type of livestock varies, the way the farm buildings are constructed plays a role in the animals’ welfare and, therefore, can affect a farm’s productivity and profit.
Steve Gladwyn spent 20 years as a dairy farmer before becoming a steelwork detailer at Collins Design & Build. He says that the two most important considerations, no matter what type of animal you’re rearing, are providing both enough space and adequate ventilation.
Minimum floor space allowance varies by type of animal, the size of the animal and the amount of bedding provided.
Detailed charts are available from RSPCA Assured, which provide guidelines for ensuring animals have enough space to move around and lie down.
When planning an agricultural building the amount of space you need should be one of your first calculations. Gladwyn also recommends planning for the future.
Don’t just build a farm building that can handle your current capacity - look to the future and think about how many animals you’ll need to house in five or ten years.
It might mean a more expensive building now, but it could save you money in the long-term and it means you’ll be ready for expansion when the time comes.
Good ventilation plays a part in maintaining an optimal temperature, reducing humidity and condensation, preventing illness and lowering stress levels for the animals.
How a building is ventilated, and the amount of ventilation required, will depend on the type of animals being housed.
“You need to find the right balance,” explains Gladwyn. “You don’t want a draught, but there needs to be plenty of air,” he says, noting that some animals are less capable of dealing with chills.
For example, the housing for dairy and mature beef cattle usually have open sides, while chicken enclosures need to provide more shelter from the wind and a warmer internal temperature.
“If you’ve got the ventilation right, you’re well on your way to happy and healthy animals,” Gladwyn adds.
Jamie Robertson, livestock health specialist and honorary research fellow at Aberdeen University agrees. He points out that, when it comes to ventilation, it’s the slope of the roof that really matters, especially with the trend for buildings to be wider.
Problems with ventilation occur when you specify a building to have a certain roof height because the slope will change depending on how wide the building is. If you don’t have at least a 15-degree roof pitch, you won’t get the chimney-like effect that draws stale air out of the building. A 22-degree pitch is even better.
In addition, Robertson notes that for ventilation to work well you need adequate air inlets too. If the building is enclosed, the inlets need to be big enough to provide a constant flow of air, without being so large that they subject the animals to wind and rain.
For more information on ventilation on agricultural buildings please click here