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Unique livestock barn design uses renewable energy in unusual way

Unique livestock barn design uses renewable energy in unusual way
Livestock barn design provides sunlight and heat for calves using various forms of alternative renewable energy.

Mike and Jan Heckaman's design for this livestock barn isn't flawed. There was no mistake by the builder. When the dairy family decided to build a facility to raise replacement heifers during the early stages, they first positioned the dairy barn on top of a hill where it would get good ventilation. Then they decided to make use of other forms of alternative renewable energy. One is sunlight itself.

Related: Renewable Energy Project Turns Manure Into Fuel

Sunlight available: Dairy calves like to congregate when the break in the livestock barn roof allows alternative renewable energy – also known as sunlight – to come through, Mike Heckaman says.

You might expect the dairy barn design to have a solid roof from front to back. Instead, there is a taller "porch" over where the dairy calves eat. Then there is a gap, left there purely on purpose, before the barn continues at a slightly different level. The whole plan was by design.

"Our goal was to let nature help us provide the best environment for our calves," says Heckaman, Argos. "Natural sunlight is good for calves, so we thought about how we could capture the most sunlight even though they needed shelter and protection a good part of the time, especially in the winter."

What the split-construction type barn design does is allow sunlight to flood in behind the first section of the roof, into the open space before the roof continues over the claves, Heckaman says. It's a natural way to provide not only good air flow, but also sunlight on days when the sun is shining.

"What we've found is that the calves tend to congregate in the area where the sun shines through onto them during the day," he says. "We believe that it's healthy for them. It is exactly what we wanted to achieve with the design of this calf building."

Related: Grant Provides Dairy Farmers Barn-Building, Cow Health Resources

More people are looking at ways to make use of alternative renewable energy sources. Sunlight is an often untapped natural source of renewable energy. In this case, the dairy calves benefit from the warmth that sunlight brings and from other benefits that sunlight can provide.

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