Everyone has that one building on the farm inherited from previous generations that no longer fills the need of the current generation. Almost every farmer has dream designs for the perfect farm outbuilding, if they have the opportunity to remodel or build from scratch.
In 2022, some farmers and ranchers may be able to finally make their dream machine sheds and cattle handling facilities reality. But before farmers go pouring foundations, they should take these considerations into account, according to Dean Taylor, a Morton Buildings sales consultant.
Budget for future
It’s tempting to look at current construction costs and build something smaller, Taylor says. Especially if the last outbuilding on the farm was built decades ago, at a greatly reduced cost. But farmers and livestock producers need to consider the future needs of their operation.
FARM TRAFFIC: Dean Taylor, a Morton Buildings consultant, also advises farmers to pay attention to the traffic patterns of their farmyard before settling on a site for their new building. You want to leave yourself enough room to maneuver large equipment safely.
“Costs are continuing to go up,” Taylor says. “So, waiting to build in the future a bigger barn or something like that and just building something small now is probably not the best idea. It’s just going to cost more another five years from now.
While you might be able to get by with a smaller machine shed, for example, how will you maneuver that larger planter you buy in the future into that smaller shed? Taylor advises building a shop wider and taller than you think you’ll need, so that you can easily house and work on larger equipment in the future.
Related: New report offers farm shop insight
Other key design considerations include:
• Enclosed buildings. Enclosed buildings not only offer more security for machinery, but they also keep expensive equipment cleaner for better trade-in value. Post-frame buildings with sidewalls are more structurally sound than an open-sided shed or lean-to structure in high winds, Taylor says.
• Engineering standards. Following the International Building Codes for your area means your building should be better positioned to withstand natural disasters like high winds.
• Data connectivity. Machinery shops often need good internet connections to pull up equipment repair manuals, research parts orders, and even connect wirelessly to service providers. Wiring the shop with fiber optic and adding cellphone boosters can help with that.
• Move the door. By moving the overhead door to the side, instead of the middle you give yourself a larger area to work with, Taylor says.
• Wider doors. It’s always easier to back into a building with wider doors, Taylor says. Think about how much easier and quicker it could be to pull a combine and header into a shop and out of a thunderstorm with a wider door.
• Lightning rods. Taylor says he advises customers to install lightning rod systems to protect the electronics on their expensive equipment housed in sheds.
• Outside space. If you’re building from scratch, siting your structure to allow for easier traffic around the farmstead and into and out of the building is as critical as the structure’s design itself. Taylor advises you to leave yourself as much room outside as your largest piece of equipment, to back into and out of the building.
Kansas State University Research and Extension has some similar advice for livestock producers looking to update or rebuild their facilities. On a 2020 episode of the Cattle Chat podcast, K-State veterinarians Bob Larson and Brad White; beef cattle Extension specialist Bob Weaber; and special guest Chase DeCoite, beef quality assurance director with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, offered suggestions for planning livestock facilities.
First, they advise cattle producers to consider pen and handling facility designs that account for the safety of humans and livestock. It’s helpful, White says, to visit other handling facilities and to research into what works and what doesn’t.
Consider the intended uses of the barn — will it be strictly cattle processing, or will it be multifunctional for production sales, calving, office space or other purposes? Again, consider the future needs of your ranch, and allow for expansion.
Taking the time to plan your next farm structure now will ensure it has a long, useful life for future generations of your farm.
Related: New report offers farm shop insight
As we go into the spring fire season, Taylor reminds farmers that some preventive maintenance around farmyards can go a long way toward protecting their investments.
1. Cut down cedar trees to reduce ignition sources for wildfires.
2. Clear tall grass and other flammable items from around the base of buildings.
3. Consider pouring a concrete sidewalk or laying rock paths around the base of buildings to give you more defendable space.
4. Turn off air conditioners to reduce the chance of sucking in embers into attics that can cause structure fires.
5. Close barn doors so that fire can’t easily enter the structure.
6. Move bulk farm fuel tanks away from buildings.
7. Don’t park idled equipment close to your building or allow weeds to grow up around parked equipment that can catch embers and burn.
Morton Buildings and K-State Research and Extension contributed to this article.