Scott Bixley and Jan Meinen have installed a SmartShelter and in two months they went from a paddock to having happy cows inside and calving.

We milk 350 cows on 142 hectares. With seasonal supply, we calve really late because of our really heavy soils and wet conditions down here.

Jan is used to overseas European farming systems and indoor-setting barn systems. Through the years he did a lot of grazing as well plus indoors.

A big reason for going for a structure like this with SmartShelters was just the sheer size of it so we’ve got the ability to use it like a feed pad and when it starts getting wet we can put all 300-odd cows that we would be milking in May in here and they’re still going to be nice and warm. Give them some baleage, get them out of the rain, carry on.

So we started this shed in Southland in May, or we started the site works in May. The first pole went in the ground I think on the 10th of June, and we put cows in here on the 10th of August, so built it right through the heart of winter and it’s been absolutely amazing.

We haven’t had any milk fever, and haven’t had any dead calves, we’re leaving the calves on the cows for a minimum of 24 hours so that they’ve got colostrum feeds done by Mum. Calves are in the shed, they’re ready to go, running around, saving Marie, Scott’s wife, a huge amount of time in the calf sheds.

Cows are healthy and happy. They lost their winter coats within a week of being in here, so it’s been really good.

Aerating in here is an absolute breeze. There are no poles anywhere, the roof’s nice and high, the tractor’s not going to hit anything, and for staff, it’s going to be nice and easy.

Pull the rippers through once a day, anyway, every day. Keep clean the cow bedding and it will help dry out with the wind coming through the shed.

Heaps of positive bugs in here. Keeps the mastitis away.

Especially for freshly-calved cows or calving cows in a loose-housing system like this is far better than a cubical. Just that they won’t get stuck and they’ve got more room to calf, and pretty happy in here anyway.

So we’re currently doing about 520 milk solids a cow with the late calving on a wet farm so the plan is to put a second shed up. Calve the first of August, get those days of milk up to 300, and aim for closer to 600 milk solids per cow.

When the weather turns, in the shed in early May, normally or probably put them in the evenings maybe.

This is going to be a hell of an asset for us. Keep them warm, keep them dry, almost through reset them, because when these sort of bigger cows get hungry they take some filling up so being able to stop the production losses too in May and trying to keep that production heading into June would be a huge benefit to the farm.

So in May we can be ticking along around 1.8, get a weather event we can easily drop to 1.5, 1.4. And later on in lactation it’s really hard to get them back up again so having this we should be able to hold them nicely, keep them full, keep them warm.

The building process has been great. In two months, we’ve gone from a paddock to cows inside and calving, so we’ll be recommending SmartShelters to others. It’s a good, well-built structure.