In 2010, we had a vision to create an online resource for dairy producers that assisted with the construction of facilities designed to optimize the well-being of their dairy cattle.

Cook nigel
Veterinarian / University of Wisconsin — Madison School of Veterinary Medicine
Nigel Cook is currently chair of the department of medical sciences at the University of Wisconsi...

At the time, we were aware that many of the solutions to the health issues of our dairy cattle – from calf pneumonia, to fresh cow diseases, to lameness and mastitis – lay in the design and management of the facility in which the animals were housed.

We also knew that the model for the construction of new facilities was to replicate what the neighboring farm had just done. Sometimes that approach was successful; other times this merely replicated the mistakes of the past.

Rather than publish a book of design templates that would almost immediately become out of date at the time of press, we settled on a website so that we could continually update it as new ideas and science came along with the firm belief that innovative dairy producers were in the best position to come up with the best design for themselves.

We also settled on a format that aimed to stimulate ideas rather than settle on one “ideal” design concept. There is no one perfect barn; rather there are multiple barns that are perfect for individual dairies. We aimed to showcase these facilities through creating virtual tours to lead to the next set of ideas – and along the way, we tried to create a framework for success.


The tours have featured pictures, barn layouts and video interviews of producers discussing their thoughts behind the facility.

The most notable contribution of The Dairyland Initiative was our science-based framework for transition cows: Provide sufficient bunk space for all cows to eat at the same time, a comfortable place to rest, sufficient space to rest without competition and limit regrouping within two to seven days before calving.

It is hard to believe it was almost impossible to build a transition cow facility or get a loan to do so a decade ago. Now it has become the norm to invest in these most-at-risk cows in our herds. At the same time, our industry has moved from outdoor calf hutches to the construction of some of the most amazing youngstock facilities with ventilation systems that prevent pneumonia and optimize growth.

In association with the website, we saw the need to host workshops that train producers, construction professionals, veterinarians, lenders and other industry consultants in critical housing concepts. Over 1,000 people have attended our workshops on positive-pressure tube ventilation, transition cow facilities, holding area cooling systems and barn remodeling and new construction design.

From this, we created our “certified consultants” program for positive-pressure tube design in youngstock facilities as well as a network of builders that understand we are advocating for the cow, which has allowed them to realize that with improved performance we can afford to do some building design features that did not seem possible before.

Heading into our seventh year, we have just completed a rewrite of the entire website. The new platform for the website supports multiple languages (the website is available in English and French, with more languages on the way) and improves the search capability of the site for our more than 4,500 users. The new site also functions well on tablet devices.

In addition to the main housing pages, we have spreadsheet tools that help with the design process by facilitating the formation of partial budgets for construction, ensuring correct sizing of facilities and guaranteeing that we are making sound economic and performance decisions for the herd.

With the development of animal welfare audits in the industry, there has never been a more important time to have access to solutions that address the issues identified in these assessments. We are very proud The Dairyland Initiative can serve as a premier resource to assist dairy producers to navigate these challenges in conjunction with their herd management team.

We continue to provide consulting services and barn plan reviews – and thanks to our sponsors, we are in great shape to continue our program into the future.

Thanks to the generous support of The Dairyland Initiative’s Platinum sponsors (Dean Foods Foundation, Saputo Inc., Zinpro and Zoetis), everyone can access the website free-of-charge by following these registration instructions:

1. Go to

2. Click the “Housing Module” and then “Register”

3. Enter the information requested in all fields

4. Select the appropriate “Business Type” category

  • Veterinarians: Please contact your local Zoetis representative for a passcode

  • Nutritionists: Please contact your local Zinpro representative for a passcode

  • Hoof trimmers: Please contact Save Cows for a passcode

  • All other business types: Continue to fill out the necessary profile information

5. Check the “I am not a robot” box

6. Click the “Sign up” button  end mark

Have questions about The Dairyland Initiative website or services? Email Courtney Halbach or call (608) 262-6800 for more information.

Nigel Cook
  • Nigel Cook

  • Veterinarian
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine