Jeff Rea – the owner of Readale farms in Mosgiel – believes composting barns aligns with his farming philosophy in terms of the regenerative side of things.

Readale milks 350 cows on about 153 hectares of dairy platform and an 80-hectare runoff across the road. We went down the regenerative path for farming to look after the cows and let nature take its course. We are a purely pastural farm as much as we can, reducing our need for supplement feeds and buying feeds.

The more we looked into composting barns and dairy farming the more it tied into our farming philosophy with regards to regenerative farming. We have beautiful compost which is a great by-product for putting on the pastures and boosting nutrients.

The reason we went with SmartShelter sheds is that there are no poles in the middle, making tilling the sawdust a lot easier. The roof fabric doesn’t let the sun through so the cows stay cool in the heat and warm in the cold.

The climate varies quite a lot in the winter, it can get very cold with significant snowfalls. We likely had about a foot of snow last year and the shed was a lifesaver, it saved our paddocks, the cows were warmer and the shed held up easily. The cows just huddled in and they were happy and warm with the sawdust underneath.

We continued to milk our cows about two and a half to three weeks later than normal last year. Having the barn gave us the ability to milk later and it gives us that extra time to pay off the shed. The benefit of that is we can just bring it to the shed, the cows are there and we get better use out of our feed plus there’s not as much wastage.

The cows put weight on through the winter and came out of winter looking fantastic with a lot less feed than what we had originally budgeted on using. Their condition is much easier to manage and control, much easier to feed them well because feed is a huge cost.

I struggle to think about going back to wintering cows the old way for a variety of reasons, for pasture, animal comfort, ability to feed them and also feed them economically. So different with SmartShelters. It’s night and day in terms of how you look after animals. We can manage them so much better in the shed than we could on a brassica.