Agricultural and Biological Engineering

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Agricultural and Biological Engineering
College of Agricultural Sciences
Cooperative Extension
Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Freestall Shelter Floorplans and Components
G 84
Robert E. Graves, Professor of Agricultural Engineering
John T. Tyson, Extension Engineer, Mifflin County
Dan F. McFarland, Extension Engineer, York County
Introduction
Interior Layout
A modern dairy freestall shelter is an integral part of a
complete dairy production system. Freestalls or cubicles
provide the cow with a clean, dry, comfortable resting
area. Cows are not restrained in the resting area (freestall
/ cubicle) and are free to enter, lie down, rise up, and leave
the stall whenever they desire. A well planned and built
freestall shelter provides an excellent environment for
the cows to live and work in, provides a safe and efficient
workplace for caretakers, and protects the water and air
quality of the farm surroundings. Clean comfortable cows
are more enjoyable to work around and facilitate production of high quality milk. This fact sheet will discuss various aspects of the interior layout of freestall shelters especially the resting (freestalls), feeding, watering and travel
areas and their relationship to the rest of the dairy production system. A complete dairy production system also
includes milking facilities, animal treatment, maternity
and convalescence areas, calf and heifer raising facilities,
feed delivery and storage facilities and manure handling,
treatment and
storage facilities. Building
design, layout
and construction should
also consider
biosecurity and
biocontainment
requirements.
Sources of
information
concerning
ventilation,
stall construction, manure
handling and
site selection
are listed at the
end of this fact
sheet.
A freestall shelter provides for the resting, eating, drinking
and exercising needs of the dairy cow. A good interior layout allows convenient cow movement and access to feed,
water, freestalls, the milking center, and, if used, an exercise lot or pasture. Coordinate freestalls, feed space, and
watering locations to provide adequate room and reasonable travel distance for cows. Layouts should also provide
for convenient manure removal and feed distribution and
promote good ventilation. A unit consisting of freestalls,
feedlines, waterers and alleys is called a housing module.
An Equal Opportunity University
Housing Module
For new construction, align two or three rows of freestalls
along alleys parallel to a feedline. This keeps the feed
space and stall numbers proportional and provides long,
straight alleys for manure removal and allows two or more
routes between feeding and resting areas to minimize the
opportunity for a boss cow to control cow movement.
Figures 1-3 illustrate recommended housing modules
that have feeding,
watering and resting areas and form
the basic building
blocks of a freestall
housing system.
General characteristics of these layouts
are listed with the
figures.
College of Agricultural Sciences, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Pennsylvania Counties Cooperating
Figure 1. Housing module
with two rows of tail to tail
freestalls
• feed table width 2- 4'
• feed alley width 12-14'
• freestall alley width 10-12'
• freestall length 9-10'
• module width 44-48' plus
feed driveway
• about 2' of feed space per stall
• provide a crossover every
15- 20 stalls (60-80')
• crossovers are four freestalls
wide to provide room for
moving and drinking animals
1/2 stall-width feed
space per stall
feed driveway
feed table
access walkway
feed alley
waterer
crossover
freestall alley
access walkway
waterer
crossover
optional observation walkway
Characteristics of a housing module with two rows of tail to tail freestalls.
• easy manure removal
• good cow traffic
• convenient feeding
• stalls along outside wall
• at least two watering locations
• at least two routes between resting area and feeding area
Figure 2. Housing module
with two rows of head to head
freestalls
• feed table width 2- 4'
• feed alley width 14'
• facing freestalls row 16-18'
• freestall alley width 10-12'
• module width 42-48' plus feed
driveway
• about 2' of feed space per stall
• provide a crossover every 1520 stalls (60-80')
• crossovers are four freestalls
wide to provide room for
moving and drinking animals
• space on each end of module for observation, equipment
or manure collection
• optional observation walkway along back
• easy expansion from either end
• feed space and stall numbers are coordinated
• space for one head lock per stall
• animals can be isolated at feedline or in freestalls
1/2 stall-width feed
space per stall
feed driveway
feed table
access walkway
access walkway
feed alley
waterers
waterers
crossover
freestall alley
crossover
optional observation walkway
Characteristics of a housing module with two rows of facing freestalls.
• space on each end of module for observation,
equipment or manure collection
• optional observation walkway along back
• easy expansion from either end
• feed space and stall numbers are coordinated
• space for one head lock per stall
• cannot block animals away from all freestalls
• easy manure removal
• good cow traffic
• convenient feeding
• no stalls along outside wall
• easier sidewall construction
• at least two watering locations
• at least two routes between resting area and
feeding area
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Figure 3. Housing module with three
rows of freestalls
feed driveway
1/3 stall-width feed
space per stall
feed table
• feed table width 2- 4'
• feed alley width 14'
• freestall alley width 11-12'
• total width of facing freestalls 16-18'
• outside freestall length 9-10'
• module width 52-58' plus feed driveway
• about 1.3' of feed space per stall
• provide a crossover every 15- 20 stalls
(60-80')
• crossovers are four freestalls wide to
provide room for moving and drinking
animals
access walkway
access walkway
feed alley
waterers
waterers
crossover
freestall alley
crossover
optional observation walkway
Characteristics of a housing module with three rows of freestalls.
• easy manure removal
• good cow traffic
• convenient feeding
• stalls along outside wall
• at least two watering locations
• at least two routes between resting area and feeding area
• optional observation walkway along back
• space on each end of module for observation, equipment
or manure collection
• easy expansion from either end
• feed space and stall numbers are coordinated
• two headlocks per three stalls
• cannot block animals away from all freestalls
• less building space per stall may reduce construction cost
Other layouts may have to be used when renovating
existing buildings. These layouts usually result in difficulties in cow movement and coordinating feeding, resting,
and watering locations and require inefficient work routines. Short cul-de-sac alleys allow a boss cow to control
access, require backing and turning for manure scraping,
should be avoided if at all possible, and are not acceptable
for new construction.
station is placed in a crossover, a 16' width is preferred to
allow a cow to drink and others to pass behind her. Protect
stalls adjacent to crossovers from splashing manure and
water. This can be done with higher curbs and/or solid
partitions between the stalls and crossover. The height and
location of these solid partitions must be balanced with
negative impact on air flow in the stall resting area. Place
waterers on endwall side of the crossover when possible
to avoid solid partitions. If water is located elsewhere, for
small groups (6-8 cows) of stalls a 4' crossover may be
adequate.
For ease of manure removal elevate crossovers (3-6")
to allow curbs to continue the entire length of the building
unless wheeled traffic must use them regularly. To promote
drainage and self-cleaning, slope crossovers 1/4" to 1/2"
per foot of length toward each alley. (Figure 4) Grooving is recommended to improve cow traction. Manure that
collects on the crossover is removed during daily freestall
maintenance.
Components
Crossovers
Crossovers allow cows to move between feed alleys,
waterers, and freestall alleys. Cows should always have
at least two routes between feed, water and resting areas
to prevent control by a boss cow. Eliminate “dead end”
alleys by placing crossovers at each end of a module. To
minimize travel distance between feeding and resting
areas place additional crossovers every 60 to 80 feet
along a feedline or about every 15 to 20 stalls. Additional
crossovers provide shorter travel distances and easier
access between resting and feeding areas. As stall
numbers along the rear alley increase the benefits from
additional crossovers will increase. Make crossovers at
least 8' wide to allow for two-way cow traffic. If a water
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crossover: groove for traction
slope 1/4" to 1/2" per foot
Walking Surfaces
Cows require a walking surface that provides
maximum traction, good hoof support, and mini* 3" to 6"
mum chances for foot or hoof injury. This is difficult to accomplish. At one extreme is the smooth
concrete floor, which provides little traction and
* This height is a compromise between what is necessary to keep flush results in regularly falling cows. At the other
water, manure or alley scraper blades from running into the crossover
extreme are excessively rough floors with protrudarea and what is comfortable for animal movement. If tractor scrapers
ing sharp edges of concrete or exposed aggregate
will travel through the crossover, it may be placed at the same level as
that cause foot injuries and soreness. New or old
the alleys.
Figure 4. Cross section of crossover
floors with pot holes or irregular surfaces will trip
cows or turn ankles. Achieving a cow-friendly finWater Space
ish on a concrete floor is difficult, time consuming
and often neglected to save time or money. Many
Provide at least two watering locations for groups
concrete installers do not understand the health
larger than 10 animals. Allow one waterer position
demands of cows’ hoofs and the importance of
or 3' of accessible water trough perimeter for every
carefully finished walking surfaces.
10-15 cows. Double the available water space dur Continuous polishing by scraper blades, deteing hot weather. Select waterers that allow cows to
rioration from freezing and thawing, and a slippery
drink comfortably at the rate they desire and that are
coating of liquid manure creates a very smooth
easily cleaned by tipping or removal of a large drain
and treacherous surface. Scrapers cut from large
plug. Be sure that lids, balls or other devices in insuearthmover tires help squeegee wet manure from
lated units do not hinder drinking. Sufficient space is
the alley and reduce concrete wear.
required around waterers for cows to drink without
All cow lanes that will be mechanically
blocking travel lanes. (Figure 5) A cow drinking water
cleaned and/or exposed to freezing and thawing
will occupy the same amount of space as a cow eating
should be grooved. Grooves help drain liquids
at a feed bunk.
from the tread surface and provide more secure
Waterers are often located in crossovers at the
footing. Grooves are made in the concrete before
ends of freestall rows. Locating waterers in feedlines
it cures or sawed in afterwards. Sawn grooves
removes feeding space and results in contamination
have proven to be more consistent and are usuof waterers and sloppy feed areas. Locating waterers
ally the preferred method of consistently grooving
opposite feedlines can result in congestion from cows
floors. Float or broom the surface after grooving to
trying to eat and drink at the same time. Waterers can
remove edges and irregularities when grooves are
also be located along outside walls where there are no
made during the finishing process. Before animals
freestalls. Locate waterers and crossovers every 60 to
walk on new concrete surfaces or after sawing
80 feet along freestall rows to minimize travel disgrooves, remove sharp edges from the concrete
tance.
by dragging with heavy concrete blocks or a
steel scraper blade with down pressure. If sharp
7'
7'
protruding edges remain after sawing grooves,
remove these before allowing cows to walk on the
surface. Also, sweep and powerwash surface to
remove debris. In either case, if the floor is uncomfortable for you to walk on in your bare feet the
same is probably true for the cow.
Grooves 3/8-1/2" deep and wide in a 3” to
4' single file
5" diamond pattern provide traction in all direccow travel
tions. Parallel grooves about 3/8" wide on 2.5” to
8' two directional 3.5” centers will provide minimum slip yet good
cow traffic
hoof support for mature cows. Grooves perpendicular to the normal travel of the scraping tractor
may catch the scraper blade. Walking surfaces
Figure 5. Space required around waterers for
in areas where cows will be moving in groups,
mature cows.
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making turns or where congestion is expected should
be carefully prepared and maintained. When regrooving existing concrete, the pattern and direction of the
grooves is often dictated by the size and type of grooving machine.
Unpaved lots and areas covered with soft rubber
mats provide cows relief from hard floor surfaces. Be
sure the surface of rubber mats provides good traction for the cows. Unpaved lots should be free from
materials such as stones that can become embedded in
a cow’s hoof and/or tracked onto hard surfaces. Design
and manage unpaved lots to prevent muddy conditions
that result in dirty cows, mastitis, hoof problems and
runoff of polluted water.
Traffic Patterns
Free and easy movement of animals, personnel,
machinery, feed, and manure is required in a freestall
housing system. Whenever possible, the movement of
one of these items should not interfere with another.
For example, cows should be able to comfortably eat
in one location of a freestall system while cows from
another group are going back and forth to the milking
center. Good layouts allow more than one activity,
such as manure scraping and milking, to occur without
interfering with each other.
Cow Travel Lanes
One person should be able to be move groups of
cows around the housing system easily and without
frustration or excitement. Routes to and from the milking center or between housing units should be simple
with a minimum number of turns or direction changes.
Use gates and fences to funnel or direct cows where
they should go. Changes in travel lane width or other
bottlenecks will cause congestion and confusion. Provide good, shadow-free lighting for cattle and workers.
Provide 12 -16' wide travel lanes for groups of up
to 150 cows. For larger groups, use 20' to 24' lanes.
All lanes should be hard surfaced, provide good traction, and be well drained. Lanes may be level across
the width, have a crown (slope to the outside) or a reverse crown (slope to the center line). This will depend
on owner desires, and manure removal system requirements. Modest slopes (about 1%) may help eliminate
puddles. Steeper slopes, up to 5%, may be used for
flushing manure or to reduce excavation during site
preparation.
Fences should be rugged and present a smooth
surface to cow flow to minimize likelihood of injury
or snagging by cows or workers. Dependable easy
working gates and gate latches, carefully positioned,
help direct cow flow. Use pass-throughs (10-16") to
allow workers to get in and out of lanes without having
to operate gates. Pass through size and location must
account for size of workers and heavy clothing and
also likelihood that an animal will be tempted to try
and go through the opening. Use an offset guard post or
small self closing gate if a larger opening is desired for
worker convenience. Consider location, natural cattle
flow, level of excitement or agitation of workers and
cattle and what is on the other side when sizing and
installing pass throughs.
Arrangements of Housing Feeding
Modules
A complete milking cow housing system consists
of housing modules, milking center and special needs
areas. The module grouping arrangements can be
categorized into three groups based on orientation and
location of the feed table and driveway;
• Drive-along – module faces its own feed driveway
located either outside the shelter (open front) or inside
the shelter (inside driveway shelters). Groups of these
may be placed in a line end to end or one in front of the
other facing the same direction.
• Drive-through (drive-thru) –two modules face each
other and are separated by a shared feed driveway.
Groups of these may be placed end to end along a common feed driveway or parallel with each other and accessible to cow and worker travel lanes on one or both ends.
• Drive-around – modules are located with their feed
tables facing away from each other and feed driveways
either outside or inside the shelter. The modules may be
separated by cow and worker access lanes. Groups of
these may be placed end to end along common cow and
worker lanes or parallel with each other and accessible
to cow and worker travel lanes on one or both ends.
Consider the movement of animals to and from the
milking parlor, feed delivery vehicles, manure removal,
worker movement and future expansion when selecting
an arrangement. Building exposure for good ventilation during all seasons and topography also influence
location of modules.
Feed driveways with flat feed tables are the most
flexible. Feed is delivered by mobile feed distributors
or TMR mixers. Mechanical feed bunks are usually not
recommended for new or growing systems due to high
initial and operating costs and lack of flexibility. Minimizing or eliminating the need for feeding vehicles to
cross or share areas with cow traffic or manure movement is desirable.
Figures 6-8 illustrate various ways freestall housing
modules can be arranged with a milking center and
special needs areas into a complete milking cow
housing system.
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Figure 6. Drive-along modules can be placed in one or more rows with cow and worker access lanes to the
milking center and special needs cow areas. The lanes may be placed on one end of a `module, between two
modules or on both ends of single modules to provide circular cow flow between the housing module and milking
center. Because each building or shelter has a narrower footprint these arrangements are often “stepped” down
slopes to reduce site excavation costs. The shelters may be open with outside drive along feeding or with an
enclosed feed driveway for additional protection from prevailing winds.
Milking center, special needs areas
and one module in an L arrangement
Milking center, special needs areas
and two modules in a T arrangement
Milking center
and special needs
areas and modules
arranged in parallel
rows with central
cow and worker
access lanes
connecting all
units.
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Milking center,
special needs
area and
modules are
placed parallel
to each other
with access
lanes on both
ends to allow for
one way circular
cow flow.
Modules on either side of the milking center and
special needs area with central cow and worker
access lanes connecting all units. With the feed
tables facing out, drive around feeding is easy
and there is no need for feed vehicle to cross cow
alleys.
Figure 7. Drive-through module configurations can be combined with milking center and special needs cow areas
in various ways to develop a complete milking cow system. Multiple parallel drive through units can be connected
by cow and worker lanes running between two modules, along one end of modules or along both sides of the
modules.
B
A
Milking center, special needs area and drivethrough shelters placed parallel and connected
with central cow and worker access lanes in
an H arrangement (A). Additional drive through
shelters can be placed beyond the first shelter
(B) or on other side of the milking center
and special needs area (C) to shorten travel
distances.
C
Special needs area and multiple drive through
shelters can be arranged parallel to each other with
access to cow and worker lanes from one end. The
milking center can be placed on either side of the
lanes side of the lanes. By driving or backing in
and out of the housing shelter with the feed vehicle
no cow lanes need to be crossed.
A drive-through shelter with three freestall
modules and a special needs area combined with
the milking center positioned in a T arrangement.
The access alley from the milking center can be
extended beyond the first drive through shelter to
access additional drive through shelters.
7
Consider how animals, personnel, equipment and
materials will flow throughout the farmstead. A proper
housing arrangement will help control the traffic to
identified vulnerable areas and minimize the exposure
to likely heavily contaminated (manure, used feed…)
materials. This may involve separate routes for feeding, manure handling, animal, worker and visitor traffic, isolation of susceptible animals from the rest of the
herd, and chore patterns from most vulnerable to least
vulnerable animals. Chore patterns should also flow
from least contaminated to more contaminated sections
of the farm (e.g., mixing feed or feeding herd prior to
cleaning the barn or hauling manure).
Figure 8. Drive-around modules can be arranged in a
line with cow and worker lanes to the milking center
between them. With the feed tables facing out, drive
around feeding is easy and there is no need for feed
vehicle to cross cow alleys. Multiple modules can be
placed end to end with center cow and worker lanes,
with access lanes along one end or lanes along both
ends.
Outside Animal Areas
Infectious Disease Control
Prevention of entry, spread or release of infectious disease organisms is the goal of a biosecurity/
biocontainment program for a dairy operation and is
an important part of dairy system design, construction and management. Biosecurity is the collection
of management and facility design steps that control
importation or introduction of infectious agents onto
a farm or into a herd. Biocontainment is a series of
management and design procedures to control the
spread among animals of infectious agents already on
the farm to additional animals or exportation from the
farm in products or animals leaving the farm.
The common routes of disease entry to or spread on a
dairy farm are:
• fecal/oral (ingestion of feed or water contaminated
by manure)
• respiratory (breathing contaminated air or inhaling
dust particles which carry infectious agents)
• exchange of body fluids which contain infectious
particles or white blood cells (mucous, blood, milk)
In addition to efficient flow routes for animals,
feed, manure and workers, engineers and farm planners should consider the potential for movement of
infectious organisms (diseases) onto and around the
dairy production system though these normal activities. Identify critical areas/animal groups that may
serve as disease reservoirs or introduction points as
well as areas where animals particularly vulnerable or
susceptible to infection will be located.
8
Depending on climate and arrangement, some
animal areas may be outside. Outside travel lanes,
feeding areas and exercise lots must include plans
for controlling manure runoff. Consider cost of
constructing runoff control systems plus continuous
demands on labor and management resources when
evaluating uncovered animal areas. Outside feeding
areas expose cows and feed to hot summer sun, heavy
rains, snowfall, and winter winds. Adequate space per
animal and good drainage are especially important for
unpaved exercise lots.
Summary
Efficient effective dairy housing systems do
not just happen but are the result of input from a
variety of sources. The successful manager takes a
team approach to design and construction of a dairy
housing system. Visits to other farms, attending
educational programs, and advice from financial
advisors, dairy designers, engineers, management
advisors, veterinarians, builders, equipment suppliers,
cooperative extension, Natural Resource Conservation
and dairy plant field persons are all useful when
planning a new freestall barn. All construction plans
should be reviewed with your milk marketing agency
and appropriate local, county or state regulatory
agencies.
Additional Reading Material on
Freestall Housing
ABE Department Fact Sheets on www.abe.psu.edu
G-72 Dairy Manure Handling
G-75 Natural Ventilation for Freestall Barns
G-76 Designing and Building Dairy Cattle Freestalls
H-72 Site evaluation for Dairy Housing Systems
Dairy Idea Plans
DIP 821 Cow Freestall (cubicle), Types and Details
DIP 822 Heifer Freestall (cubicle), Types and Details
DIP 831 Fenceline Feed Barriers
DIP 841 Waterer Locations for Dairy Cattle
DIP 851 Freestall Crossover and Floor Surface Details
Dairy Practices Council
DPC, 319 Springhouse road, Newtown, PA 18940
tel/fax (215)860-1836 www.dairypc.org
DPC 1 Guideline for Planning Dairy Freestall Barns
Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service
Cooperative Extension P.O. Box 4557, Ithaca, NY
14852-4557
tel (607)255-7654, fax (607)254-8770
www.nraes.org
NRAES-200 Penn State Housing Plans for Milking Cows
and Special-Needs Cows
NRAES-201 Penn State Housing Plans for Calves and
Heifers
NRAES 148 Building Freestall Barns and Milking parlors
NRAES 129 Dairy Housing and Equipment Systems
Managing and Planning for Production
Midwest Plan Service, 122 Davidson Hall, Iowa State
University, Ames, Iowa 50011-3080
(800)562-3618 fax: (515) 294-9589
MWPS-7 Dairy Freestall Housing and Equipment
2nd Ed. 03/10
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facilities, admission, and employment without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance,
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