Building blocks - budgeting and design are crucial in farm building
Proper budgeting and design should be the foundation of farm building projects write engineers Simon Hennessy and John O'Callaghan
How much does it really cost to create an additional cow place on either a greenfield site or on an expanding farm? Are roofless sheds really worth it? Can robots really make sense?
These are all questions that are to the fore of farmers in dairying, and those considering the switch. Unfortunately, too many sheds and facilities are erected on farms without a lot of thought, despite the huge capital investment and effect it will have on the ability of the farm to expand further in the future.
But before you start to design a layout that will allow you to expand further in the future, a clear idea of the budget required to finance the project needs to be established.
Let's start with the milking parlour. When describing what's required from a parlour, a client of ours put it best: "I just want it comfortable enough that I don't mind spending my morning and evening in it, but I don't want to spend all day in it."
A comfortable parlour for the cows is a comfortable parlour for the operator. To achieve this, it needs to be an inviting and stress-free environment for the cow. This can be achieved if it is a bright and airy space, with no steps or sharp turns at entry or exit. Equally, it should be sheltered so that it isn't cold, draughty and uncomfortable for either the operator or cows.
This doesn't mean that it has to be a fancy set-up. A basic spec milking plant in a well-designed milking parlour can be cheaper to build and maintain and easier to operate than a high spec milking plant in a poorly designed milking parlour.
Quite often, we have seen farmyards where large investment has been made on a high spec plant at the expense of cow flow. Cow-flow through at the entry and exit to the parlour must be smooth in order for it to be easily operated and for cows to be relaxed. The milker should not have to leave the pit to get either cows to flow into the parlour, or draft them as they are leaving.
Sometimes the budget would be better spent achieving efficient cow flow by building a well-designed collecting yard and drafting/exit area and spending less on the plant. The space that these ancillary facilities require often makes an existing parlour redundant due to site restrictions. Most machines can always be upgraded later with swing over arms, automatic cluster removers (ACR's), or milk meters if higher specification is still required.