Recently, a dairy producer I work with indicated he was building a new barn and he asked me what kind of barn he should build.  My answer to him was a simple “whichever one you are most comfortable working with.”  He was a bit surprised by my answer.  Because we have worked extensively with the compost bedded pack barn system in the last few years, he expected me to suggest a compost bedded pack barn.  Perhaps, my enthusiasm for the compost bedded pack barn has led some to believe I am a proponent of this system above others.  However, this is not the case.  I am a proponent of cow comfort and profitability.  In my view, this goal can be achieved with freestall barns, tie-stall barns, compost bedded pack barns, and probably some other housing systems we haven’t even dreamed of yet.  Ultimately, which system an individual dairy producer chooses depends largely on personal preference, geography, economics, and existing resources and facilities.  Or, as my friend Wendy Fulwider (Global Animal Partnership) says, “all dairy facilities can work for cow comfort and welfare, it just depends on which challenges the dairy producer wants to deal with.”  Each system can work well when constructed properly and managed well.  Each system can be problematic when poorly constructed or mismanaged. The dairy producer asked me to summarize the advantages and disadvantages of each facility type.  My opinions are provided in the diagrams below.  Deciding which facility to build is a difficult and personal decision.  The best way to make this decision is to talk to other dairy producers about their experiences, think about which challenges you want to deal with, and examine the economic implications of your decision closely. 

Freestyle Barns

Compost Bedded Pack Barns

Tie Stall Barns

Author:  Jeffrey Bewley, Ph.D.

Printable Version