Considerations in designing a new dairy facility or expanding an existing one

Over the years, there have been many industry trends that have changed the way that dairy farms operate. New technologies, coupled with increased regulatory requirements, municipal, provincial or state codes and environmental guidelines have made dairy facility design and construction more complicated than ever before. Stonecrest’s Designers work closely with clients to determine their specific facility needs and to assist them in developing a workable facility that meets the necessary codes and regulations, without sacrificing comfort and efficiency.

In planning a dairy expansion, there are many considerations with regards to the existing facilities and how to best incorporate the expansion. These include:

  • Do you intend to continue to use your existing facilities? If so, for what purpose?

  • Does the expansion affect the existing facilities from a structural point of view? How do you know?

  • Is your feed management system effective, and will it continue to work with your proposed expansion?

  • How will you handle manure in your new facility? Do you have adequate storage available? Is there a more effective way to handle your manure?

The location and orientation is another important consideration in your new design. Proper orientation can increase the ventilation of the facility. Milk truck access must be maintained. Proximity to feed and manure storage, existing and future, should be considered. Minimum distance separation (MDS) from adjacent structures, lot lines and roadways must also be ensured. Provisions should also be made to ensure that biosecurity of the facility is supported.

In determining the size of the new facility, it is important to evaluate your present and future needs. What do your long term cow number look like? Where are your replacement stock now, and where do you want them in the future? It is always more cost effective to build a larger facility today and grow into it, then it is to build an addition in the future. Additional space can be used to house replacement stock, or for equipment, hay or sand storage.

On the other hand, limiting the size of the facility may also be a consideration. Under the 1995 Canadian National Farm Building Code, facilities greater than four hundred square meters (approximately 51,000 ft2) are required to have a one hour fire separation. The location of this fire separation may provide challenges to the ventilation and functionality of your facility. Stonecrest Engineering has helped many customers work with their local municipalities to develop a workable solution.


Finally, we recommend that you consider some of the new technology that is changing the way that modern dairies operate. Do you foresee that you will one day switch to robotic milking? Is your facility well laid out to do so? Other technologies that you may wish to consider include automatic feeding systems, manure separation and manure composting for bedding.

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