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Farm Buildings

The driving force behind any new building will be pollution control requirements, food assurance, livestock welfare, REPS requirements or the reduction of labour and elimination of drudgery. The availability of grant aid, under the Farm Waste Management Scheme and the Dairy Hygiene Scheme, is a further boost.

Last year approximately €160m was invested in farm buildings. This year farmers plan to spend €180m (Teagasc, Situation and Outlook 2001/02) on farm buildings, and with grant aid available spend could be higher. Dairy farms account for 60 per cent of the planned spend on buildings and facilities in 2002.

Any farm building is a major investment. It needs to be well designed, comply with planning requirements and be built to a good specification.

Farmyard design guidelines

Michael Ryan, Specialist Advisory Service, Teagasc, Athenry

People's expectations of farmyards differ, but any change made should make life simpler.

Always consider the whole package of farmyard buildings and how they combine with each other and not just a single building in isolation. Bad sitting decisions will face you for the next 20-40 years.

A good yard design will incorporate three basic principles:

  1. Keep animal and machinery routes separate as far as possible. This is vital on dairy farms where cows walk across yards four times a day, i.e., into and from morning and evening milking.
  2. Keep soiled water to a minimum and collect in one tank if possible.
  3. Site buildings for good ventilation – not draughts

Figure 1: Plan to keep animal and machinery routes separate (120-110mm approx)

Animal and machinery routes

Moving cows to and from milking is a task that has to be performed 280 – 365 days a year, hence the location of the parlour relative to the grazing area or housing is important.

  • For spring calving herds, milking parlours are best located on the paddock side of the farmyard. This means cows enter the collecting yard from the farm road and return to grazing on exiting the parlour.
  • For winter milk herds, it is probably best to locate the milking parlour close (5-10 metres) to the housing. Having the milking parlour under the same roof as the cow housing can work well, but such units are difficult too expand and it is difficult to create a fresh, airy atmosphere, especially if dairy washings are stored in the collecting yard tanks.
  • Don’t try to compensate for a poor building design by putting in sophisticated equipment.
  • Milk collection lorries are getting larger and need easy and safe access / exits. This means sweep entrances and keeping reversing situations to a minimum.
  • In layouts where cows have to walk through yards to get to the parlour, try to:
  • Keep cow access routes separate from all others. This eliminates tractors driving over soiled areas and reduces work in opening / closing gates / wires.
  • Avoid locating silage pits or other drystock housing between the cow wintering unit and the milking parlour.
  • Leave a minimum of 3.0 metres at the parlour exit for drafting facilities.

Where diet feeding is practised, try to locate the feed storage areas close by, i.e. grass/maize silage pits, the concentrate storage area, protein balance storage depot and the molasses dispenser. Loading, mixing and dispensing should be completed in 15 to 18 minutes. Extra wide silage faces can lead to wastage especially with non-sheer equipment.

Clean and soiled water

The volume of soiled water produced in the average yard is as large as the amount of slurry, i.e., about 0.31m3/cow/week (70 galls).

Water from roofs, machinery only routes and polythene can be considered clean and should be drained to a watercourse. However, washings from collecting yards, calf houses, loose yards to which animals have access and dairy washings are soiled and must be collected.

It is best if all these are collected in one tank rather than two or three small tanks.

Every effort should be made to keep soiled water out of the slurry tank as it will fill up quickly and the mixture will be classed as slurry for storage and spreading purposes.


About 70 per cent of the wind and rain blows from the Southwest. Consequently, don’t face open entrances to the Southwest. Open silage faces should be on the sheltered side.

Calf sheds need plenty of fresh air – not draughts hence do not locate a building that is going to interfere with the air inlets. Where this has already happened, it is a good idea to leave a 150mm space between the side sheeting and wall, which will help the upward movement of air. The ideal location is where the calves have access to a paddock on fine days and can go back in on cold wet days.