'Our' farmer Bruce Mackie wins Architecture Award!

'Our' farmer Bruce Mackie wins Architecture Award!

New Farm Dairy Wins Award at Aberdeenshire 2016 Innovation, Architecture & Design Awards

Bruce and Jane Mackie, farmers at Middleton of Rora, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire are delighted to have won one of only two ‘Distinction’ awards, the highest in the ‘As Built’ category for Sustainable Innovative Development at the Aberdeenshire 2016 Design Awards. Their new dairy which milks over 200 cows was designed by Douglas Shand of Shand Building Design and vet Nico Vreeburg of Vetvice, the Dutch cow welfare consultants famous for their ‘Cowsignals’ methodology. The building was up against any building built in Aberdeenshire over the last two years, so the judges had plenty from which to choose.

Bruce said ‘Our aim at Middleton of Rora was to build a new dairy which not only replaced the dated existing set-up but also improved working conditions, allowed for expansion of the herd, was of the highest welfare standards and would present dairy farming at its very best to all – quite a list for our team to interpret!
‘What Nico (who designed the shed layout) and Dougie (who designed everything upwards from the floor level, interpreting Nico’s plans for UK regulations and Aberdeenshire weather!) have achieved is remarkable. Not only does it exceed our brief, it looks fantastic too.’

providing the best comfort for the cows was a key fundamental from the Cow Signals team

‘We were keen to build a shed for the future and we have incorporated the latest of milking technologies including robots to milk the cows but also curtains and ventilation to provide the best comfort for the cows. This was a key fundamental from the Cow Signals team who work on six basic principles of Feed, Water, Light, Air, Rest and Space for cows. As part of our research, Nico took us round several farms in the Netherlands so that we could learn the latest thinking in shed design there – it was a real step forward in the design process.

‘Much work then went into getting the design correct – from memory eleven drafts in all. As a client, I’m extremely pleased with the end result.’
Vetvice barn design adviser and veterinarian Nico Vreeburg said about this project: ‘The goal of good veterinary practice is not in the first place how to cure sick animals but much more how do we keep our animals healthy. The knowledge about the success factors of health are all present in this shed. Preventive thinking and designing is in our blood as Cow Signals Team. In the Middleton farm all the aspects of our Cow Signal Diamond are represented by practical solutions in the given situation. Healthy and happy cows makes both the farmer and the vet happy. It feels always as a privilege to work with such dedicated farmers as Bruce is. This prize is a reward for his good way of planning and thinking.’
Bruce said ‘People are interested in where their food comes from and how it’s produced - and rightly so. We want to have a dairy that anyone could come and visit and be pleased with how their daily milk was produced. Indeed we’ve welcomed a number of diverse visitor groups to the farm to have a look – and raised a bit of money in the process for the charity ‘Send a Cow’ which supports small farmers in Africa.’


We’ve been milking for nearly a year now and we’re really pleased with the shed so far. The milk hygiene is 40% better than the UK average and the cell count, (a measure of udder health) is over 30% better than average. We’re producing more milk per cow and have expanded the herd with heifers we have bred ourselves. The shed is really quiet with content cows. This is due in part to the sand bedding that the cows lie on – it’s very comfortable and has the added benefit that sand is inert so that few bugs grow in it.
The great thing is that we have potential to do even better in this shed.

Milk hygiene is 40% better than UK average and cell count over 30% better


Cows come in for bad press as far as greenhouse gas emissions go. However this shed has the potential to reduce emissions for each litre of milk produced by up to 25%. This is achieved by:
• producing more milk per cow
• having greater cow longevity
• increasing the amount of forage consumed – displacing other (often overseas) feedstuffs
• increased health of cows – especially better udder health and fertility, reducing drug use and thereby less wasted milk

The shed has extensive natural ventilation, LED lighting and solar panels – all of which contribute to the sustainability of the design.


The increase in sustainability is due to a combination of detail and innovation. The cows are milked using robots – but this is not uncommon in Aberdeenshire, rather it is how they are incorporated into the building that makes the difference. For example:
• The cows are bedded on sand which is the ‘gold standard’ being both an inert material preventing microbial growth and very comfortable for cows. Yet this is the first dairy in Scotland to combine robotic milking and sand.
• Solar panels are fixed facing east and west rather than south – this spreads production throughout the day matching electricity demand.
• There is epoxy resin on the feed surface – not only is this smoother on the cows tongues increasing forage intake but also it reduces the build-up of spoilage bacteria, keeping feed fresher for longer.

And the roof design is unique!


This is not a cheap building but cost has been reduced by designing it with a central span and two ‘lean to’ structures rather than as a single span thus reducing the weight of steel required. By raising the central span by 1m and the oversized ‘open protected ridge’ by 1m this gives the chimney effect of a much steeper roof line but again with lighter steel.
Value also comes from efficiency – the shed is designed so that ‘one man can fetch one cow in one minute’, it enables dairymen to focus on being good stockmen rather than the humdrum of milking and most importantly it gives a better quality of life – to the benefit of man and cow alike.


The roof is stepped twice in two planes resulting in nine different levels which flow into each other. It softens the shed in the landscape while adding visual interest. As a result it has been nicknamed locally as the ‘pagoda’ or ‘Christmas tree’ shed.
The dairy ‘looks and feels right’ – certainly one that any supermarket buyer would be pleased to know that this was where their milk was sourced – an important aspect in today’s market.
Douglas Shand of Shand Building Design Ltd said ‘I’m really pleased to win this award, especially since it is the first agricultural building to win a ‘Distinction’ in the history of the competition.’

About the Award

‘Aberdeenshire Council recognises that good design is important to the public realm and in a wider context believes that development must be of benefit to the people. The aspirations of the Aberdeenshire Design Awards are to encourage the very best in environmental design, to stimulate and develop a deeper and broader interest in our traditional and recent architectural surroundings, and to improve the built environment within Aberdeenshire, thus raising the profile and benefit of good architectural design within our communities.’

About Middleton of Rora and the Mackie family

The Mackies have been farming Middleton of Rora in North East Aberdeenshire for 50 years. It is a mixed farm of some 500 acres with wheat and barley crops in addition to the dairy. The arable enterprise is compatible with the dairy providing much of the grain required for feed and straw for bedding while the cow manure is used to fertilise the crops. There are also three holiday cottages.
We enjoy where we live and believe in the maxim by John Marsden that we should ‘live as if you’ll die tomorrow, but farm as if you’ll live forever.’ To this end we really care about the environment in which we work. As well as renewable power in terms of solar and wind, we use GPS to apply nutrients appropriately to the soil, protect the river with water margins and have planted four new woods on the farm and several kilometres of new hedges. As these grow they are a joy to behold.

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