Global Dairy Solutions

Giving the traditional dairy barn a 21st century upgrade
Written by: 
Matt Dodge
Produced by: 
Drew Taylor

The brainchild of construction and agriculture industry veterans Dean Mason and Norman Mullin, Global Dairy Solutions (GDS) is hoping to revolutionize the industry with a new turnkey dairy design that fuses new trends and technological advances with tried-and-true methods.

“There are some dairies being built that are taking some of those things into consideration, but what we’ve done is taken that and expanded on them and put efficiencies in place just like the commercial industry has,” says Mullin. “We’re not reinventing the wheel; we’ve just taken the wheel and perfected it.”

An agricultural engineer by trade, Mullin is the owner of Enviro Ag Engineering (EAE), an independent agricultural engineering firm with offices in Texas and New Mexico, that specializes in conceptual design, site survey and selection, complete barn design and engineering, whole-farm layout, environmental permitting and nutrient management plans. While EAE is focused mainly on dairies, the company completes work for a range of agriculture clients, including beef, poultry, and pork feeding operations and meat processing plants.

Growing up in the family construction business, Mason developed a passion for concrete early on. After completing work for some of the nation’s largest dairies, Mason translated that passion into his own commercial construction business, Greencrete Contractors. While the Amarillo, Texas-based firm was born out of his background in agricultural construction, Mason has sought to diversify himself from the competition by integrating the latest and greatest tools and technologies from the commercial construction world.

In 2014 the two joined forces to create GDS. By combining Mullin’s agricultural engineering experience with Mason’s modern commercial construction methods, they soon realized that they were the ideal team to set about transforming the age-old dairy barn design.

“By being able to take a commercial approach to the Ag industry, we’ve been able to bring new products and time schedules; it allows us to build some of these projects in 50 to 60 percent of the time it would take a normal ag contractor,” says Mullin.

Thinking outside the box

The company’s signature Big Box design is based on traditional cross-ventilation dairy design, with a flat roof that allows inside temperatures to be more easily regulated. “We once thought a 30-stall barn was the end-all be-all, but then came the cross-vent barn,” says Mason. The low-profile cross-ventilation (LPCV) barn was the first design to provide a regulated environment suitable to all aspects of a cow’s life, from sleeping and eating to milking. “This is a continued refinement of that type of structure; we took the basic profile of a LPCV and made it better,” Mason says.

The flat, monoslope roof also captures rainwater, allowing dairy producers to cut their utility costs and repurpose millions of gallons of fresh water each year. The water can be pumped into the Big Box’s high-pressure misting system, providing a cool cloud of moist air to keep cows cool or be used for a number of other purposes on the farm. “This technology creates so many advantages in environmental conditions inside and outside of the barn,” says Mason.

The cost and time it takes to build the Big Box are significantly decreased when compared to LPCVs or conventional free-stall dairies thanks to the Big Box’s unique flat roof. The design reduces construction time by 30 percent as tedious concrete, mechanical, electrical and plumping tasks can be completed regardless of weather conditions as soon as the columns, roofing and curtains are up and running. “That not only saves on labor costs, it also allows the dairy to be producing revenue much faster,” says Mason.

The monoslope, cross-ventilated design allows sidewall curtains to be raised during winter months to keep out harsh, cold air and lowered during the summer to allow for maximized air circulation. The design also addresses erosion issues, as water is collected in a centralized system instead of falling from the sides of the roof and collecting on the ground, between barns.

The Big Box can be constructed under the most difficult environmental conditions, due to the construction process. After the steel is erected and the building is sheeted, the remainder of the work is conducted inside the facility and the weather becomes a non-factor to maintaining the construction schedule. “We can put a facility into production up to 30 percent faster this way,” says Mason.

These advances in design result in happier, more relaxed cows — an essential part of any successful dairy operation as cow comfort correlates directly to a more consistent, healthier, productive herd.

“In order to have a successful dairy operation, everything must flow just right in order to ensure that the cows are stressed as little as possible while feeding, resting, and transferring to the milking parlor and back to their stalls; sick cows need to be kept separate and milked separately; feeding operations need to occur on time; baby calves have to be given immediate care; gates must be put in the right places and swing the correct way,” says Mullin. “Most importantly, the milking parlor must run like a well-oiled machine.

By providing design, engineering and construction management all under one roof, GDS is able to ensure that every Big Box is carefully crafted to ensure the highest return for customers and the happiest cows possible.

“Dean and I get so tired of the stigma that anything related to ag is cheap, but I’ll admit that ag is probably slower to adopt new technologies than some other industries,” says Mullin. “What we’re trying to do here is bring the city to the country and integrate some of the newer construction methods.”

Raising the barn

As with any new product or innovation, customer education is one of the biggest hurdles to success. “Our clients have been milking cows for generations; they know their operation inside and out, so it is a hard sell to show them something new and different and to get their buy-in,” says Mullin.

GDS is placing its hope in the next generation of dairy producers, whose comfort levels with new technologies might well be higher than that of their parents. “They want more efficient, they want more economical and they are willing to embrace the design and learn how to incorporate it into their operations,” says Mullin.

Dairymen are seeking the fastest return on investment (ROI) possible and GDS’ team is dedicated to providing myriad solutions throughout the operation; one of those solutions is utilizing advanced LED lighting technology from JEC Energy Savings.

JEC ’s high-bay LED fixtures replace traditional HID and fluorescent high bays with a minimum of 50 percent savings in energy and reduced fixture count in addition to JEC’s 5 year warranty. This allows for better lighting in an indoor facility for the cows and workers as well as requiring a fraction of the electricity use, creating a cost-effective and environmentally sound solution and speeding up the ROI.

While GDS has been granted a number of U.S. and international patents, the team has yet to actually put a Big Box design into production. “That’s something we’re fighting too. People think if something’s patented it was created to be more expensive, but that’s not the case,” Mason says.

While GDS is under contract to construct the first Big Box facility in 2016 and in talks to complete two more this year, there has yet to be a Big Box dairy completed as of this writing. The team is confident that the innovative design will start turning heads as soon as it’s up and running. “I think as soon as they see one that’s in operation, I don’t think the industry will ever be the same again,” says Mason. “It’s taken some of the worst issues they face and given them a solution.”

By building a smarter, greener dairy barn aimed at maximizing cow comfort while slashing construction costs and time, Global Dairy Solutions is poised to revolutionize the market with the introduction of the patented Big Box dairy design.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
JEC Energy