Building a new freestall barn or a milking parlor to update a dairy business can save time and labor and increase income. However, a University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension agricultural engineer urges farmers to develop an overall, long-range plan for the farmstead. Not having a plan, he said, can result it costly mistakes.
"Without a plan, you might find that something you added last year is in the wrong place for something you want to do this year," says Brian Holmes.
"For example, a farmer might need more feed or manure storage. But, if he or she is just focusing on the current project, without thinking about how it will fit in with future renovations, there can be problems in the future.
"Consider developing a feed center plan that is expandable and has room to expand," he suggested. "Consider feed handling traffic patterns that minimize handling time and congestion on the farmstead. Think about water drainage and maintaining an all weather road system to allow access to feed."
People who modernize a dairy by building a milking parlor often decide to add more cows to the herd either because they have to increase income to pay for the parlor or because they find they can easily handle more cows. More cows need more housing, heifer housing, feed storage and manure handling, Holmes explains.
"Each of these facilities requires good planning to function correctly and fit together as a system," he said. "Farmstead planning considers the existing resources and the near-term resource needs as well as longer-term resource needs."
These considerations include the amount of land available; constraints such as roads, runoff drainage, rock outcroppings, water supply; and resources to be protected such as groundwater, streams, wetlands, neighbors and communities. People also need to think about where crops will be grown and how manure nutrients will be used to grow crops.
The "Farmstead Planning Handbook," which can help a person better understand factors to consider and how to develop a farmstead plan, is available from the MidWest Plan Service. The publication, in CD format, can be obtained by ordering from the web site, www.mwpshq.org or by calling 1-800-562-3618. You can also get help at your University of Wisconsin-Extension, Jefferson County Office at 920-674-7196.