If there was a shortlist of books that contain enough hard data and guidance to save the UK agricultural industry millions of pounds per annum, this 192-page volume would be on it. The Farm Buildings Handbook, in its third edition edited by Jim Loynes BSc, CEng, MIAgrE, is a reference volume that guides us through the preparations of a build project, the law and regulations, and into construction technology. Thereafter, the book tackles specific building design details for livestock and crop storage and finishes with a comprehensive list of sources of useful information.
Whilst the introduction states that the information in the handbook does not seek to replace the advice from specialist advisers, the current situation in UK agriculture is that independent advice on buildings is very hard to find. The attraction of this guide is that all the information contained is provided by individuals who have contributed to British Standards over the years and /or have years of experience from the now defunct R&D sector that supported the evolution of design for farm buildings.
The Farm Buildings Handbook is sufficiently clipped in its language to be suitable for producers who require to know what questions to ask the planners and builders before they start a project. There is also a myriad of design details, including 78 tables, that are useful to the generalist at all levels from adviser, builder, planner, architect, QA assessor and finance manager. The handbook should be on the shelf of every large animal veterinary practice in the country, so that they can compare the built environment on clients’ farms with how the target building ‘should’ be if constructed and maintained according to good practice.
The impact of poor building design, construction and maintenance on the efficiency of crop storage and livestock production is massive. Engineering technology has advanced so that, for example, remote sensors in buildings can pass live information on the CO2 content of a store, ambient temperature alarms, individual data on feed intakes from individual animals, and hormone concentrations of milk from individual cows. On the other hand, a ball-park of 50% of all new livestock buildings do not have competent ventilation capacity due to ignorance of design guidance published over 30 years and accepted around the world. Respiratory disease in UK livestock inflicts millions of pounds of losses per annum. Similar associations can be made between the contribution of poor flooring and the cost of foot problems.
An agricultural building is an investment for a generation of use. It will often be the single largest investment a producer has to decide upon. But, unlike the purchase of a piece of field machinery where all the technology is put together by experts before purchase, the producer is often left to choose elements of building design with minimal or conflicting guidance. The Farm Buildings Handbook is a sub-£20 investment that is good for the next decade.
Written by Jamie F. Robertson BSc., MSc., MIAgrE