The opportunity to build new infrastructure on a farm is always exciting but also a big undertaking! This investment is something that should serve you and your farm for many years to come.
We are currently in the middle of building and updating facilities for our young stock at Miner Institute. These plans include facilities that will house animals from birth until calving. While we are only partially through the process, there are still some key considerations when planning and implementing your vision to ensure a successful project.
Identify goals and build the team. First, it is essential to consider the objectives of each facility. How do you plan to manage the animals? What type of design will be best suited to achieve this?
These questions are likely to be answered as you go through the planning process. You might not have all the answers when you first start, or they might change as you do more research. Next, it is crucial to determine who the prominent people are to design and manage the project. Certain people may be more focused on the big picture, while others are excellent at keeping track of the nitty-gritty details; both are important. Furthermore, as you go along, you may bring in other people to provide input on the plans, either from the farm or outside.
Research and seek ground truth. Now that you have decided to build a barn, how do you go from the idea to concrete plans? Calf barns especially have lots of different ways to manage calves (such as individual pens, group housing, and robotic feeders, just to name a few). There are specific considerations for all of them. Additionally, there are many resources online about the sizing of the barn(s) and pens, ventilation, and drainage.
The barn should support the animals' needs and balance the design with aspects that will make it easy for the people working with those animals to do their job. While there is a plethora of information on the internet, visiting farms in person provides invaluable ground truth. Additionally, I would recommend reaching out to different people in the industry or farmers and talking to them about the pros and cons of various facilities they have visited or managed.
Finalize plans. The final stage in the planning process is to start building. During this time, plans might be adjusted slightly but do not compromise on the critical design features included for a specific reason.
As we have developed our plans for the calf barn at Miner, we have made certain compromises. Overall, these have not compromised the functionality of the barn but have helped save costs. However, there are certain things we are not willing to budge on, namely ventilation and drainage. Lastly, let your plans come to fruition.