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Tie Stall Dairy Barns: What's New?

Posted: April 3, 2008

A properly designed and built tie stall barn can provide a comfortable and productive living and working environment for milking cows and their caretakers. There are several new resources available for those who are planning new or remodeled tie stall dairy barns.

There are several new resources available for those who are planning new or remodeled tie stall dairy barns. A properly designed and built tie stall barn can provide a comfortable and productive living and working environment for milking cows and their caretakers. For herds under 80 cows that are not actively expanding they are good alternative to a milking parlor and freestall barn or pasture system. In tie stall barns cows are restrained in parallel rows with an eating surface and walkway for feed delivery in front of them and a manure collection gutter and service alley behind them. Cows may stand tail to tail or head to head. A tail to tail arrangement is usually selected for ease of milking and observing the rear ends of the cows. Large barns may sometimes have four rows.

A properly designed and built tie stall barn can provide a comfortable and productive living and working environment for milking cows and their caretakers.

The most important area of the barn from the cow’s point of view is the tie stall area itself. This is where the cow will spend most of her time resting, eating and drinking and being milked. Individual stalls are located next to each other along a tie rail and front curb that separates the resting area from the feeding area. Short partitions, between each cow, extend back from the tie rail assembly to further define the stall. The cow is confined in her own stall by a collar and neck chain, hence the name time stall. Careful observation is necessary to assure that tie rail, front curb and tie chain location and dimensions do not seriously interfere with the cow’s ability to rise, recline and maintain a variety of comfortable resting positions. The size and surface of this resting/standing area needs to provide for clean, dry and comfortable resting and standing for the cow and allow her to easily rise and recline. There also must be room for the worker to step beside the cow and perform milking duties.

Many of the normal health and management procedures required for the cows can be performed in the stall. Separate hospital and maternity pens should be located in separate areas or adjacent buildings but may be located at the ends of the barn. Calves should not be kept in the same air space as the mature cows. If maternity pens are located in the tie stall barn they should be used only for calving, ventilation air should flow from the maternity pens to the rest of the barn and calves should be removed as soon as possible from this area to a separate housing area to minimize exposure to disease organisms.

The cow eats, drinks, rests and is milked in her stall which results in more labor for the caretaker. Caretakers must deliver feed to each cow, keep feed pushed up within reach and remove stale feed. Likewise the resting area must be regularly groomed and dirty bedding removed and replenished. Manure is collected in the rear gutter and must be removed daily or more often to aid in cow hygiene and barn air quality. In spite of these labor requirements, modern tie stall barns can still be labor friendly. Feed, including mixed rations, can be delivered with small powered carts. Mechanical gutter cleaners or gravity flow gutters can remove manure from the gutter. Pipeline milking systems can deliver the milk back to the bulk tank reducing walking and carrying of milk. It will still be necessary to bend down to perform udder examination, cleaning, and milking operations.

Plenty of fresh high quality air is required all day, every day of the year through out the barn. This is normally delivered by a thermostatic-controlled exhaust fan ventilation system with air inlets in front of all cows to assure each gets their share of fresh air. Barns may be converted to tunnel ventilation systems during hot weather to increase cow comfort and productivity.

Following are several new or revised publications concerning animal facilities for the tie stall herd and where they may be ordered or viewed on line. Use these publications to work with a barn designer, builder and equipment suppliers to develop cow friendly and productive housing systems.

  • Guideline for Planning Dairy Tie Stall Barns. DPC-37, 2007, 33 pages. Dairy Practices Council www.dairypc.org
  • Mechanical Ventilation of Tie-stall Barns DPC 44, 2007. Dairy Practices Council www.dairypc.org
  • Tie Stall Barn, Face-Out, Mechanical Ventilation 52 Stalls DIP 301 Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Penn State, Dairy Idea Plans
  • Cow Tie Stall and Details DIP 823 Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Penn State, Dairy Idea Plans 
  • Penn State Housing Plans for Calves and Heifers NRAES-201 279 pages Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service. www.nraes.org
  • Penn State Housing Plans for Milking and Special-Needs Cows NRAES-200 100 pages Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service. www.nraes.org
Robert E. Graves, Professor of Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural and Biological Engineering Extension