hen siting a new barn or other farm building, according to Karl Vandevender, the first critical point is:  No site’s perfect.
“Every site’s going to have some points of compromise,” Vandevender, a University of Arkansas extension specialist and professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, told Ozarks Farm and Neighbor. “What you’re really trying to do is balance out a lot of different features and factors with the construction process, and where you site the barns.”
An example is access to utilities; ideally, you’d like power and water supplies to be as close to the barn as possible, to reduce the cost of routing them. But, said Vandevender, “If you minimize the distance to your water and electricity, that means you’re probably on the edge of the property line right there on the road.” As a result, other people might find the barn unsightly, creating unnecessary friction with neighbors.
Vandevender said farm and ranch owners need to take into account the impact of a new barn on those around them; often, he said, the first thing they’ll do when siting a new barn is to cut down all of the trees. “That removes your visual barrier that helps blend your farm into the landscape around it,” he said. “A lot of our agricultural opportunities out there are along the lines of, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’” He said producers should build behind trees or other buildings to screen barns from passersby and reduce the likelihood of an adverse reaction; similarly, if a facility is going to have fan or tunnel ventilation, the discharge should be directed so as not to douse the neighbors with dust and odors.
Much of Vandevender’s current work focuses on environmental aspects of facilities siting. “You want to make sure that you’re out of a flood plain, so you don’t have water running through your barn,” he said; if you shield your production from the prospect of flowing water, that should take care of the pollution control issue as well. As he noted, there is no perfect site, so if flowing water is unavoidable, the producer needs to establish diversions so water doesn’t enter the facility clean and leave it contaminated with dropped feed or spilled manure. “In some cases,” he said, “you may want to give some consideration to what kind of guttering you need to put on your barn, or what sort of rainwater capture or diversion system… As a rule of thumb, 1” of rain hitting a 1 sq. ft. area is going to generate a little over 0.6 gallon of water, so it doesn’t take much of a roof to generate a fair amount of fresh water.”
The land may need to be graded in order to ensure surface waters run away from and not toward the facility.  “A lot of our commercial barns are so big these days that you’ve already got to do some earth work when you’re setting up your pad,” Vandevender noted. “A lot of it really goes back to the idea, from a water management/environment protection management perspective, of, ‘Keep clean water clean.’ If water could flow through and come into contact with manure or exposed soils, its escape route should include a grassed filter area that can settle out sediment and trap nutrients.
If a producer is growing contract hogs, poultry or eggs, the decision on the type of facility may already have been made by the integrator, which will provide specifications and guidelines for appropriate building structure materials, sizes, types of structures, and minimum ventilation. If you’re on your own, Vandevender recommends you seek out a licensed engineer; one potentially complicated issue is the degree of ventilation required, based on the number and species of animals being confined.
Most new commercial barns are erected by contract builders, who can also offer their expertise on siting and construction; when individuals erect their own facilities for personal and recreational use, they’re likely built from plans and kits. “We see a lot of metal buildings that are put up in this way,” said Vandevender, who added the owner’s planned uses will dictate what goes into the structure. “Are you trying to utilize material that’s available on your own farm, or are you looking at buying pre-sawn trees and lumber?” he asked. Another crucial aspect is access; there has to be a way to get bedding materials and feed into the barn, and manure out of any storage areas.
In the end, he said, the producer has to balance economics versus the intangibles. “The more road you have to do; the more dirt work you have to do; the farther you have to bring your utilities in, the more it’s going to cost you,” he said. “But if you trade those costs too much, you might find yourself sitting right there on the edge of the road. And if it’s a commercial livestock barn and your neighbors aren’t really happy with it and you’re discharging dust up close to their houses, you may have saved some money, but you may have created some neighbor relations issues down the road.”


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