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New dairy buildings a fine opportunity to get things right

Thursday 20th of March 2014

New dairy buildings a fine opportunity to get things right

Building a new dairy unit presents a great opportunity for farmers to get everything right, Olivia Cooper explains in Famers Weekly’s Farm Buildings Supplement, published ahead of the Agricultural Buildings Show on Lincoln Showground on Thursday 3 April (


The article, which can be seen in full at explains how many dairy farmers are making do with 50-year-old buildings and ancient parlours. But there comes a time when a complete revamp is required and, as with any large investment, it’s important to get it right first time.

This was exactly the situation that Bristol University’s Veterinary School found itself in five years ago, with an aging infrastructure that was compromising cow health and productivity.

“The old shed was originally designed for around 40 cows, with a three-a-side tandem parlour,” says David Barrett, professor of bovine medicine, production and reproduction.

“Like many farms, it was expanded over the years, ending up with 77 cubicles and straw yards housing 110 cows that were milked through a 30-year-old 12:12 herringbone. There were a lot of health problems, and it simply wasn’t commercially viable.”

So in 2009 the university invested in the first phase of the project, erecting a new slurry store and four silage clamps. Although planning permission was already in place for the new shed, a change of academic team and the introduction of farm management company Velcourt in 2010-11 led to a complete redesign.

“We wanted sand beds so had to modify the slurry system, and we included a lot of features to enhance animal welfare, safety and ease of handling,” says Prof Barrett.

Working closely with Velcourt farm manager David Hichens and design and project manager Roger Stewart, Prof Barrett continued to tweak the design to ensure it would be fit for purpose. “The site is bounded by residential properties so considerable consultation was undertaken to provide an acceptable design,” says Mr Stewart.

He lowered the roof profile and used a broken roofline with an eaves oversail and coloured sheeting materials to soften the visual impact, and also included extensive landscaping and planting around the buildings.

 “The original design was for a high apex to improve ventilation, but you don’t need a high roof to do that. It’s all about the airflow through the sides and up through the ridge,” he says.

One side of the 115m long x 33.4m wide building is open above cow height, with the other side space boarded. The air is drawn up through a protected open ridge, with every second roof sheet standing 50mm proud to create a breathing roof. About 10% of the sheets are clear, to ensure a light and airy environment.

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