Raising productive dairy cows starts with using the right equipment. Automated milking systems and calf feeders are a great way to start, but the barn that hosts everything is the foundation. Timothy Terry, a strategic planning specialist at Cornell Pro-Dairy, says that facility design can prevent a chaotic arrangement down the line. Retrofitting barns is often a route taken for the sake of efficiency and elimination of labor.

Terry says if a remodel can be done for less than half the cost of a new building, it is probably the right choice, deeming it the 50% rule. Focusing on animal comfort, ventilation and internal environment goals all warrant adjustments to a facility. However, he says the 50% rule is not hard and fast.

Producers have the tendency to overestimate the value of existing structures, mainly for sentimental reasons. He reminds dairy producers that it’s more important to view a barn as sunk capital.

Read more on dairy facility design and planning here.