Sweating the details on the front end of a major dairy building or expansion project is the best way to minimize frustrating time and cost overruns later on, says dairy building contractor Roland Larson of Webster, S.D.
"In our business, it's details, details, details,” says Larson, who has worked on more than 300 dairy projects in South Dakota and neighboring states over the course of his 30-year career.
To give yourself plenty of time to evaluate and compare bids from several contractors, Larson advises making initial contacts at least six months to a year before you'd like to begin the project. He adds that it's a good idea to avoid contacting builders at certain times of the year. In his area, for example, contractors are typically scurrying in late fall to wrap up projects before winter sets in.
Soon after you make the final decision on who to use for contracting, subcontracting, financing, etc., get everyone who is involved in the project—contractors, lenders and any others—together in the same place so they can discuss their individual responsibilities and timetables.
"When you're all in the same room, face to face, it's easier to make sure all the details of the project mesh and everyone has nailed down what's in their bids,” Larson says.
Communicating the importance of meeting deadlines to the builder should be another high priority. "They may not understand what it really means when you tell them that as part of your expansion you've bought a group of bred heifers and they're going to freshen by a certain date,” Larson says.