Roundhouse Cattle Housing

New thinking about the causes of bovine respiratory disease has brought about new developments in cattle housing. These systems not only reduce the incidence of pneumonia but also improve performance.

This open air approach has been extended and perfected for older cattle with the introduction of The Roundhouse. Not only has respiratory disease been reduced, but massive savings in labour and straw have been achieved. The 30m Roundhouse will house up to 165 cattle at 400Kgs, and the 45m will house double the number of cattle.

The central vent in the roof improves the 'Stack effect', as hot air above the cattle rises, and fresh air enters from all sides. It was interesting to note that recent research using heart rate monitors on cattle, has shown that cattle in a Roundhouse are less stressed than cattle on the same farm in traditional buildings. This is thought to be due to the allround view the cattle have in a Roundhouse, is more like field situation where they would be able to see predators approaching. The Roundhouse can also be used for sheep, pigs and deer.

The central forcing pen makes handling stock both safer and a lot quicker, which is so important with regular TB testing.

Roundhouses work well with dry cows, allowing correct transition management to be applied and cows can be split into small cohort groups coming up to calving and fed correctly. They have plenty of feed space, less bullying and one pen can be used for calving before they join the milkers.


  • Natural ventilation through the stack effect - no fans needed
  • A stress free environment for cows, heifers, and growing stock
  • Heart rate monitors show these animals are less stressed than in a conventional shed
  • Cattle live as a 'herd' so can associate, see each other and behave naturally, as they would in a field
  • Ideally suited to dry cows as they have a long feed fence and can be segregated according to month of calving
  • Central circular handling system makes life easy for TB testing, PDs, weighing cattle etc - a 2 man job
  • Easy to weigh cattle and return to the same pen, less stress
  • Loading bay makes life easier
  • Can be used in combination with H&L Calf Igloos to create a healthy environment for baby calves and weanlings
  • Split into sections housing 9 tons of cattle per section

Farmers Claim:

  • Feeding is a one man job
  • Labour saving
  • Less straw used, owing to bedding being drier (more air exchange)
  • Less pneumonia
  • Huge savings in vets bills
  • Higher growth rates
  • Heifers calving down at 23 months
  • Lots of feed space, less bullying amongst dry cows
  • Easy to move weaned calves into the adjoining pen, less stress on staff and calves
  • Facilitates easy planning permission and have been erected in the National Parks, owing to environmentally friendly appearance


There is no doubt Chris McDonald was a trailblazer when he bought his first Roundhouse for his replacement heifers. Untried on calves under a week old, the gamble has paid off handsomely. Already milking just over 500 cows with a 10,000ltr herd average and calving at 24 months his mission was to improve calf health so as to bring the replacement heifers into the herd earlier and extend longevity. With virtually no pneumonia and contented calves, growth rates have improved significantly ensuring calving is now at 23 months. The sums are easy says Chris "30 days of milk per heifer at 30Ltrs/day at 30p/Ltr* is £270/animal and with 200 in the Roundhouse a saving of £54,000 pa has meant the Roundhouse has a payback of under three years."

Encouraged by the benefits and improved returns Chris erected a second Roundhouse in the spring of this year for his dry cows. A lot of thought has gone into the highly modified interior which includes an eight cluster mini parlour. The cows are milked after giving birth and the colostrum is given immediately to the calves. The calves stay in this second Roundhouse for up to a week ensuring they get the right fresh milk at the right time.They then move into the original Roundhouse and onto the automatic milk machines. With reduced mortality the herd has now grown to 640 Holstein crosses. Reduced labour through easier handling, and reduced veterinary and medicine costs have added to the benefits but Chris believes there is still a further benefit to come because without lung damage as calves an extended life of the cows in the herd seems certain.

The Roundhouse with its integrated handling system is a proven design to improve animal health, by better air flow and reduced stress.

Available in three sizes 22, 30 and 45m diameter and able to hold 80, 150 and 300 animals at 450kg respectively. The UK has over 80 Roundhouse holding cows, sucklers, fattening cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, deer and even Water Buffalo and currently 10 Roundhouses are located in five European countries.

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