There are three key areas that farmers really need to focus on before commencing a new build, according to Grasstec’s Simon Hennessy. These are: design; allocating the correct amount of time to the project; and carrying out careful costings.

1. Design

Touching on the design element at the recent Keenan open day in Borris, Co. Carlow, he said that from the initial meeting and measurements, up to 30 drawings and 20 models could be created.

“Design services typically involve one of us going and viewing what the proposed build is. We’d have a few different ideas of where it should go and you can create an interesting debate with the farmer on the initial day of the visit.”

Once the initial visit has been completed, a topographic survey is undertaken to get an understanding of the levels of the yard, the existing buildings and where the new facility may best be positioned.

That way we know what the levels are and what work is required. From this, the designs are created to present the farmer with the different options.

“There are a lot of things to consider when designing and topics that often come up during the design process are cow flow, traffic, feed space and slurry storage.”

The latter, he said, can be very site specific; where underground slurry storage tanks may suit one business, others may be better served by overground towers.

He also encouraged farmers to pay careful attention to levels, as bringing or removing earth can add significantly to the cost of the build.

Giving an example of a 100-cow cubicle shed, he said, lowering the level by 1m can add €23,000 to the overall cost.

2. Plenty of time

Another area that needs careful consideration is the time allocated to the project. In some cases, he said, it could take 12 months before works begin.

The key thing we would say, if you decide to go building today, it could take 12 months before you could start the actual building work.

“It could take six months to get planning; if you want to apply for a grant, it could take another three-to-six months before you start construction. There’s a range there from eight weeks up to as far as 12 months,” he said.

3. Costs

Another area that really warrants consideration is the cost of the project.

He said: “The two items I would say that always need to be included in the budget are siteworks and fit-out. You really have to cost these two before you start.”

Farmers, he said, are relatively good at costing the concrete or steel for a project, but it’s the hidden costs – such as development levies – that can take a toll.