A well-functioning, efficient facility is essential for the success of your dairy operation. As a dairy design specialist, this is what I help dairy farmers worldwide achieve.
In this article, I’d like to share some common concerns I see arise and offer practical solutions. These are things you should consider during the design process, whether you’re investing in a new facility or seeking to enhance an existing one.
Additionally, I have some valuable design tips so you can achieve the best outcome for your dairy.
First, you need to understand your goals
Before you design a new facility, you need to understand what you’re trying to achieve. Ask yourself:
- What are my production goals?
- How many cows do I need to accommodate?
- What are my long-term goals?
- How will this facility serve the next generation?
- Will I expand my dairy in the future?
I bring up expansion because I often hear, “I wish I would have put in space for another hundred cows.” If you want to add to your herd in the future, build room for those cows now. With a new facility, you always want to look toward the future.
I also recommend you start planning two years before building. To assess your goals and brainstorm the best design, I suggest bringing several key people to the table. You should sit down with the following individuals:
- A dairy design specialist or consultant
- Your dairy equipment company
- An engineer or contractor
- Concrete expert
- Ventilation company
- Financial adviser
- Veterinarian or nutritionist
By bringing a diverse team of experts together early on, you can ensure all aspects of your new facility are thoroughly considered and optimized for success.
Now, let’s talk about the common concerns dairy farmers are looking to address when they meet with me.
The first common concern is cow comfort
When I meet with dairy farmers, most are looking to prioritize cow comfort in the design. There are numerous ways to achieve cow comfort in a new facility design. First, ensure your new facility will have proper ventilation. Fresh air is key to keeping cows cool and comfortable. Rubber mats can also help with cow comfort.
Next, prioritize space for cow flow. Keep traffic ways wide and free of sharp turns to ensure you don’t have to push cows through. Your holding area should also have plenty of space.
The design of your facility should encourage routine. Cows thrive when things are consistent day to day. If you have a footbath, run them through it every day. If you install a sort gate, make sure the cows walk through it every milking, even if you are not sorting every shift.
Considering cow comfort when developing your design will ensure your cows have the best environment.
The second concern is employee safety and comfort
Next, dairy farmers are typically looking to address employee safety and comfort. Today, good employees are hard to find. A facility designed with employees in mind can make their job easier and ensure they enjoy working at your dairy.
For comfort, you want to put in rubber mats. Concrete flooring is hard to stand on for long periods of time. Mats can help alleviate this pain.
If you are in a colder climate, make sure you have heaters to keep them warm. I also recommend placing a bathroom close to the operator area. Don’t make your employees run across the barn to use the restroom.
Make the parlor easy for employees to clean. This includes keeping hoses within easy reach so your staff doesn’t have to drag them great distances. Tasks that are difficult to do can have a tendency to be skipped.
Lighting is also key. You want to create a bright working environment. But you also want to think about where you place windows in the parlor. You want to avoid the sun beaming in during sunrise or sunset. This may not seem like much, but when you’re working in a parlor and the sun is blinding you, it makes a difference.
Additional planning tips for the right layout
There are some other things you can consider during the design process to ensure the facility you build is right for your operation:
- Tour other dairies with new facilities to see what you like.
- Ask other dairy farmers who have been through the design process for advice.
- Include a viewing area if you plan to have visitors on your dairy. This will keep them out of the parlor, which is important for optimal cow flow.
- Put angles on the window sills and walls. This ensures nothing gets placed where it shouldn’t be. Cows like routine. Something as simple as a water bottle where it shouldn’t be can affect cow flow.
In conclusion, designing a well-functioning efficient dairy facility requires careful planning. Remember to involve a diverse team of experts early on and collaborate with them throughout the design process. By understanding your goals and incorporating these tips, you can build a new facility, or enhance an existing one, that not only meets your current needs but sets the stage for future success.