Building a new barn may seem like a glamorous idea. Eventually, you may end up with a sparkly, beautiful new barn, but not until going through countless stressful decisions. What size will the stalls be? What type of bedding will be used? What height do we want the curb to be? Should we pour cement brisket boards?

But sometimes, the answers to these essential and important questions aren't very cut and dry. While the research tells you one thing, your builder tells you another, and your banker may have an entirely different thought. Folks at the University of Wisconsin saw the need to get each of those three entities - the farmer, the builder, and the banker - all on the same page in order to create welfare-friendly housing. Funded by a grant from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, the Dairyland Initiative was started. Don't stop reading if you're not from Wisconsin; this initiative is likely to have positive ripples beyond Wisconsin's borders.

Two very useful decision trees (found in the Blueprint tab) on the Initiative's website offer a starting point for those looking to build or renovate a barn. A series of essential questions will help you rest easy that all things have been considered. By clicking on each question you'll learn generally accepted specifications for things like stall size, curb height, and even how to manage a pack barn.

While the website recognizes that not one barn is perfect, virtual tours of several barns give you a glimpse of what is possible. Very detailed barn layouts of each farm are helpful.

Unique to this University site is the partnership it holds with members of the construction and banking industries. Interactive maps serve as a directory of partnering builders and financial institutions.

The site is free to access for Wisconsin producers by entering the first six digits of your producer's license number. Participating lenders and construction professionals can also access the site by obtaining a Dairyland Initiative identification number. For all others, access to the site comes with a low-cost price tag of $100 for two years. Based on the immense amount of information available, that's pretty reasonable.

Take some time today, and visit the website to see what you can learn!