A new concept for animal sheds

Prices for agricultural products stagnate or decrease, agricultural structures and types of production move more rapidly. By contrast agricultural building is always more expensive. A new approach to agricultural buildings is thus necessary.

Agricultural buildings should be very cheap, light and easy to transform. As soon as they are not needed, they can be destroyed. This can be even a condition tied with the building permit. But often climatic conditions and requirements for environmental and animal protection lead to equipments that are anyway expensive (a secured slurry pit for instance). Farmers are also used to sophisticated devices for milking and control of the herd.

If, after all, agricultural building can be only expensive, they must last to cover their costs. It means that they must be conceived for a multifunctional use, so that a succession of production types can be installed within the same walls (milking herd, chicken or pig fattening, etc.). Currently, it is not the kind building that is sold to the farmers, not only because of technical constraints related to specific production types (a cowshed cannot be turned into a chicken hall without remodelling of the space), but also because sellers of farm buildings and equipments have an obvious interest to sell for every production type a brand new building.

Furthermore, new agricultural buildings become very large because of the concentration of agricultural structures: always less farmers keep always more animals and need always larger infrastructures. An average cowshed (40-60 places) has now a surface of about 1500 m2 and a height of 9 m. Some very large cowsheds are now collective for two to ten farmers.

Big but beautiful?

Animal farms are settled in open agricultural land, in order to protect inhabited areas from unpleasant smell. They have a huge negative impact on the landscape, all the more since their architecture is poor. The excuse is that “more esthetical is more expensive” and cannot be paid by agricultural production nowadays. This has still to be proved. The real reason is that many agricultural architects have no sense of aesthetics and cannot transmit them to the farmers. And also because farmers have a poor opinion of their production and do not think that they can produce in an esthetical building, which would be part of the brand mark of their product. The task of the State authorities, bargaining for more wood in the walls or another colour for the roof, is difficult because there is no clear legal basis to enforce more aesthetics…

See Building in agricultural zone (VD)


What does happen with buildings which are no more useful for a farmer?

If they are ancient and show an interesting architecture or play a role in the landscape, they can be kept and used for non-agricultural purposes. Otherwise, in a country like Switzerland, where agricultural land is scarce, they should be removed. If they are new and still useful for agricultural purposes, they should be transmitted to another farmer.

But owners of agricultural buildings (ex-farmers) have other purposes in mind and hope to use or sell the object for more lucrative activities, and removing agricultural buildings can be demanded practically only for cheap and light structures.