In dairy barn design we always focus on designing builings as separate units. Too often focus is just to build for the coming 10-15 years and not too much think what will happen after that. Buildings are also always related to each other funcitionally. There is a logistics inside buildings but also outside buildings between eachother.

The plan which ties buildings together and takes future expansions into account, is called Farmstead Plan.

Farmstead plan streamline logistics inside and outside the buildings

New greenfield dairy farmsteads quite often have a master plan because they are starting on a new piece of land and a blank canvas. When we locate the first building into the site, we have always an idea why we locate it to that spot. However, many dairy farmsteads don’t start with a blank canvas. The dairy farm started 50 years ago with grandfather’s vision and developed over the succeeding generations.

New buildings were located taking existing buildings into account and the result is very often “exploded” farm yard with no good plan and poor logistics. Each generation changed and grew the dairy herd according to the current and new developing technology of the day. Now the current generation wants to expand or modernize the dairy adapting the current technology including automatic milking systems.

Start farmstead plan from management

Too many times a new barn or manure storage is dropped onto a location without any thought of what’s next. Many times a farmer adds a new cow barn saying that this cow barn will be “all the cows I ever want”. 10 years later the next generation wants to  expand on the past success. But the current manure storage or last barn is in the way of future changes, does not allow them to easily expand, or requires them to start fresh on a new site.

To prevent this to happen, there is a need for a good farmstead plan. It is a tool that allowed the dairy farmer to implement their own management plan. The dairy management plan has several key components and their respective systems including management sytems of animal housing, milking, feed and waste. It can also include things as biogas production and animal outdoor access areas.

 4dbarn helps you with your farmstead plan

Think big!

Developing a farmstead master plan takes time and effort. It is best done as a team effort with key people in the management team including owners and farm managers with trusted consultants. With your management team around the table the management plan can be developed with all team members input from their perspectives to develop the farmstead master plan to achieve a functional design that implements your management plan. It needs future oriented thinking, evaluating different options and most importantly thinking big. Where our farm can be after 20 to 30 years? How can our cow number increase? Do we need to adapt new technologies in the future?


The dairy farm's future is reflected in the farmstead plan

A farmstead master plan is a set of drawings and documents that describes the site’s physical and natural boundaries, current buildings and future impovements. The farmstead master plan can identify opportunities of the site such as the space needed for new construction of barns, manure storage, and feed storage area. It can also identify limitations including physical boundaries such as space, property lines, roads, topography, and drainage patterns. The farmstead master plan can help determine the maximum size of dairy that is possible on the site and the future direction for the current and next generations.

Decisions are made to develop the farmstead master plan following basic design and planning principles including:

  1. Implement the dairy animal management plan
  2. Effectively utilize and optimize the farmstead resources
  3. Provide healthy and safe working conditions and labor efficiency
  4. Consider flow of cows, feed, manure, and people
  5. Protect the environment
  6. Adapt technology

A plan over generations

With a farmstead master plan decisions on where to place the next barn, manure storage, or heifer barn can be looked at critically. The animal housing barns, milking center, feed center, and waste handling systems are located and sized on the farmstead master plan to complement each other to create an efficient dairy system.

Developing a farmstead master plan can help this generation plan for not only the next step but allow future generations to continue to develop the dairy farmstead when they take over the farm. Decisions made now can either allow additional future changes or hinder future development of the site.

The Roadmap with The Goal

The farmstead master plan can and will change over time. A master farmstead plan developed 10 years ago will look different than one developed now because the dairy business has changed over that time. The plan evolves and is continually changing according to each generations needs and management plan.

Think farmstead plan as a map to navigate. You know where you want to go but Your long journey is divided into smaller pieces, sort of waypoints. Reaching to every waypoint, You can check whether Your goal will be the same and You update Your travel plan based on that. Farmstead plan works as a roadmap showing you the most efficient route, without going too far away from it.

Good farmstead plan pays back with optimized farm yard logistics, cost efficient expansions and avoiding to tear down buildings.

4dBarn can help your farm to create farmstead plan. We have done several farmstead plans in different countries. We think that it is very useful to do a farmstead plan if you are building something either to Your existing farm or if You start in a greenfield area. Cites have always town plans, dairy farms should have farmstead plans! 

See also our quality e-learning materials and improve your dairy skills. Study at your own pace!

David W. Kammel, Professor Emeritus, Jouni Pitkaranta MSc Architecture

This article has been published in Dairy Japan magazine in 2022.

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