Whether planning to build new or working on a master plan, it can be overwhelming. Each farm sits in a different situation whether it be financial, age, land base, future goals or geographic regions.
Ambrosius ashley
Agricultural Marketing and Customer Relations / Bayland Buildings Inc.

But despite these differences, here are a few common tips to consider when constructing new dairy facilities:

1. Sketch it out

The preparation work is the hardest part to building a new addition to your operation. There are so many ducks that need to be placed in a row before construction can begin. My biggest suggestion is plan. Not just for your up-and-coming project, but for the master plan. What is your end goal? Draw, sketch, scribble. This will allow you to better lay out your overall operation.

Laying out your master plan can really be looked at like a puzzle. Each piece needs to fit to make it all come together. Start with the desired number of cows, and work backward to determine barn and stall needs. Calculate feed storage needs and manure storage requirements. Consider water supply and electrical availability.

2. Plan for the next project

Think about what a future addition or expansion will look like – not just the finished facility, but the process of constructing it. It should be a goal to minimize interruption of the cows’ environment and travel patterns. Constructing over animals is extremely time consuming, dangerous and expensive. Build the closest barn to the holding area and parlor first, and add future barns next in line. It is not uncommon to build half of a barn with the goal to add the other half later.


Financially speaking, building half of a fully enclosed barn and adding to the end is a more economical option than building an open-front barn and enclosing it at a later date.

3. Manure storage and barn placement

When sketching your overall layout, the manure storage location can play a role in dictating your site layout. Depending on the codes in your specific area, there may be setbacks and placement requirements. Thoroughly think this one through. Your future barn may be power-ventilated. That barn will need to be placed with the exhausting fans facing the manure lagoons because you cannot have the gasses from the waste being pulled into and through the barn.

4. Site elevation and fill

Taking a hard look at your site elevations can be a key pointer in saving money. If you want to build a new barn next year and plan to dig your manure storage the following year, there is a chance you could be doing that backward. If the site needs fill brought in for the new barn, use the fill from the pit. Excavation expenses can add up quickly, especially when you may need to bring in several loads of fill to build the barn at a significantly higher elevation than the land currently sits. Excavation expenses can range dramatically, from $50,000 to $500,000 or more. However, there may also be opportunities to save.

In the area where I am located, some producers can get their hands on a material called foundry sand. It is a sand material that needs to be hauled out from our local foundries. Doing your research and using available resources could save you money.

5. Water supply

Be aware of your water supply availability. Your well may work fine today and can handle the current water demands, but will it be able to supply your end goal’s needs? In Wisconsin, water is a hot commodity in certain areas. If your operation uses a large water supply daily, you may need a high-capacity well, which requires an application process and approval. Being aware of your end goal and what the water supply needs will be, you will have a better understanding of when you may need to pursue additional water supplies.

6. Electricity

Evaluate current power supply and availability. On many of our projects over the past year, customers have made three-phase electricity hookup a top priority. If three-phase is available to you, it is worth considering the installation due to the huge cost savings. With power ventilation in demand, you will have a stronger, more consistent and secure power source while operating on three-phase electricity versus single-phase.

7. Talk it out

My biggest suggestion is to talk to many people before you start construction. Every producer has something they would do differently if they built over again. Meet with professionals in each industry, not just the builder. The electricians and plumbers have seen just about everything that has to do with their line of work. By conquering most of the obstacles head-on during your planning phases, your operation layout will flow much easier. end mark

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Corey Lewis.

Ashley Ambrosius