Compost dairy barn layout and management recommendations

Kevin A. Janni, Marcia I. Endres, Jeffrey K. Reneau, Wayne W. Schoper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Compost barns are a loose housing system that provides excellent cow comfort for dairy cows. Producer experience with well-managed compost barns in Minnesota has generally been positive. Cows are relatively clean, very comfortable, have fewer lameness problems, and in some cases had lower somatic cell counts (SCC) after moving to a compost barn from tie-stall or freestall barns. Current design and management recommendations are based on dairy producer experiences. Compost barns have a concrete feed alley, a bedded pack resting area that is stirred two times a day, and a 1.2-m (4-ft) high wall surrounding the pack. The wall that separates the pack and feed alley has walkways to allow cow and equipment access to the stirred pack area. The stirred pack is sized to provide a minimum stirred bedded pack area of 7.4 m2/cow (80 ft2/cow). Producers use dry fine wood shavings or sawdust for bedding. Fresh bedding is added when the bedded pack becomes moist enough to stick to the cows. The pack is stirred (aerated) at least two times each day to a producer recommended depth of 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 in.). Stirring aerates and mixes manure and urine on the surface into the pack to provide a fresh surface for cows to lie down on. The pack can provide manure storage for 6 to 12 months. Excellent pack management and pre-milking cow preparation procedures are required. Research on compost barns is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Engineering in Agriculture
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Bedding
  • Compost
  • Dairy
  • Housing


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