Dairy farmers are moving towards large-scale industrial-style sheds in their quest to expand milk production.
O'Dwyer Steel, in Co Tipperary, has reported a sharp increase in enquiries about industrial units from farmers in the south of the country, particularly in counties Tipperary and Cork.
The majority of enquiries about big sheds are coming from farmers who are already milking herds of about 200 cows and want to increase production by half to about 300 cows, according to Richard Walshe, director of O'Dwyer Steel.
The farmers are preparing for investments in the region of €150,000 for the shed alone and up to €300,000 for the completed unit, including concrete and internal fittings and fixtures.
The advantage of an industrial unit over a traditional farm shed is the capacity to put more of the farm infrastructure under one roof; the structures also have fewer pillars blocking the centre of the shed.
One industrial shed recently completed by the company in Carrignavoher, Co Cork, equated to an acre of land under one roof, including cubicles for 300 cows, a calving unit and milking parlour.
Mr Walshe added that farmers who were interested in industrial-style sheds should ensure the shed is designed by a structural engineer.
"The structural engineer will design the shed to cope with wind, snow and everything else that could be thrown at it," he explained.
"Last year, more than 5,000 agricultural sheds collapsed under the weight of the snow in the big freeze because they were not designed to cope with the extra weight of the snow."
Farmers currently milking 100-150 cows who intend to move up to 200 cows are more likely to build extensions to existing sheds.
"Typically, these farmers are adding an extension to an A-frame slatted unit and also extending the milking parlour," said Mr Walshe.