In The Barn: Take a Peek Inside a Dairy Cow Barn

It’s possible you’ve seen an image of a little red barn -- maybe in a storybook -- where dairy cows lived.

Once upon a time, this was a common scene for dairy farms across our country. But like any other industry, dairy evolved and changed with the times thanks to technological advances in housing and cow comfort. As a result, today’s dairy barns can look much different than they did a long, long time ago.

A dairy barn can come in different shapes and sizes, but they all have a common goal of providing the cows with a comfortable place to sleep and eat, while protecting them from bad weather.

Take a look at what a modern dairy barn looks like!

Dairy farmers across the U.S. choose different ways to house their cows, such as freestall barns. These barns let air flow through, while keeping the cows safe from bad weather. Cows have access to feed and water in the barns and can move about as they please. The cows also have clean, comfortable bedding in the barn. 

Dairy farmers have had a longstanding commitment to the care of their animals. Farmers will not tolerate mistreatment of them at any time, for any reason. Reminders like this one are posted in the barn and on other parts of the farm.

Many barn floors have grooves to provide extra footing for the cows. The floor also allows farmers to easily clean-up cow manure, which they can reuse as a natural fertilizer for their crops. 

Cow bedding is an important part of any dairy barn. Cows spend a good portion of their day lounging, which helps them make milk. Farmers use a variety of bedding options such as sand that is similar to what you’d find at the beach. Some farmers use a tool that attaches to a tractor to groom the sand, which makes it extra comfortable for the cows.

Cows have access to feed all day in the barn. Many farmers provide their cows with total mixed rations (TMR), which is a combination of various plants, grains, minerals and byproducts that gives the cows a well-balanced meal.

The structure of the barn allows cows to eat when they choose. 

Water is another very important part of a cow’s diet and farmers make sure they get as much as they need.

Another key priority for farmers is to keep their cows cool during the warmer months. Many farmers use sprinklers or misters that help lower a cow’s body temperature. 

Dairy barns are also equipped with fans that keep a cool breeze going.

Some barns include rotating brushes that cows can nuzzle against. 

Dairy barns also contain a maternity ward where mothers can give birth to a calf in a clean and comfortable setting. 

Calves represent the next generation of milking cows at the dairy farm. They are given their mother’s first milk, or colostrum, and live in hutches that keep them safe from the elements, predators and from being accidentally injured by adult cows.