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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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What to consider when designing dairy buildings

There are four main factors when considering any cow house refurbishment or new build, according to Mark Scott, CAFRE senior dairying development adviser.

  • Cubicle dimensions and passage widths

These design features must be considered before any decisions are taken about overall shed width. If reconfiguring existing sheds, it is essential not to compromise the dimensions of cubicles or passages.

As a rough rule, a cubicle bed against the wall should be 2.7m and a central double-row bed with shared lunging should be 4.8m. An open-fronted single bed should be 2.4m long and each should be 1.15m wide.

Passage widths between rows of cubicles should be 3.6m wide. Where cows are standing feeding with cubicle exits to their rear these passages should be 5.2m wide.

For the standard cow house consisting of one row of cubicles against the wall and one double row with feeding through the external side, the basic internal width needs to be 16.3m.

Designing dairy buildings

  • Feed space

The more feed space available the higher feed intakes will be and again this puts milk in the tank. Where heifers are mixed with cows, increased feed space is essential if the heifer is to feed when she wants and not just after more dominant cows have had their fill.

As a minimum for the modern dairy cow, 30cm of feed space is required where ad lib easy feeding is managed.

Using the standard design of three rows of cubicles and feeding along one external wall, this will provide around 45cm of feed space per cow which will lead to improved intakes and reduced bullying at the feed face.

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With this increased feed space above the minimum – more economical feed fence options are adequate such as simple post and rail due to the decrease in bullying.

  • Ventilation

Most farmers will rarely consider ventilation before ordering the steelwork for a shed. Although most new or reconfigured dairy cow buildings are now more open around the sides, this ‘inlet’ area should not be confused with overall ventilation.

For optimum ventilation adequate ‘outlet’ is also essential and the ideals place for this outlet is along the ridge of the building.

Rules of thumb will not work here – speak to your CAFRE dairy adviser who can calculate inlet and outlet ventilation requirements of your building and give recommendations.

  • Other considerations

There are many other considerations that will be specific to your farmyard and your cows when it comes to building design.

Some of these will be placement of drinkers, cow flow in and out of the parlour, crossover passages and dealing with slurry. Your CAFRE dairy adviser has the knowledge and skill to guide you in these areas and continues to be available throughout the various periods of restriction.

Designing dairy buildings

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