Free stall or compost barn: Which system should I use on my property?

Technical Articles

A very recurring question among farmers in which housing system to use for their dairy herds: Between free stall and compost barn, which is the most suitable for my property? 

Below, we bring more information to you to help you make the best decision. First, however, we need to make it clear what each of these systems is. Let’s go?

What is compost barn

It is basically a stable with compost material, that is, a ventilated shed and without internal divisions, with a common resting area for cows and the surface covered with sawdust, shavings or coffee husks.

How the free stall works

In the free stall system, each cow has a bed, separated by metal or wooden partitions, with sand being the most common material used on these surfaces.

And now, which one should I choose?

There are some factors to be analyzed before defining which system is most beneficial for your property. Check out:

- Cattle standard

If your herd does not follow a pattern, the barn compost is best. The free stall single beds are recommended when you have a pattern and can make the best use of the beds and available space.

- Sanity

The free stall, because it is covered with sand and not with organic material, allows you to have greater security from the mycological point of view, being less likely that cows will contract mastitis, for example.

- Bed management

In the compost barn, you will need to use the scarifier twice a day to manage the bed and avoid excess moisture, while in the free stall you will have to make the manual bed, with a hoe, and replace the sand, to ensure that the surface is always uniform.

- Comfort

The sand bed in the free stall tends to be colder than the bed with shavings (or other material) used in the barn compost. Besides, by allowing cows to lie in any position, without having a space limiter, we can say that the compost barn is more comfortable than the free stall.

- Cow hoof

In the free stall, if the cows are not in bed, they will be in contact with the concrete, therefore, the wear of the hooves can be big. In the compost barn, the material is softer and tends to avoid the occurrence of traumatic injuries to the hooves.

- Building area

The area required by the free stall is smaller, as the construction is more compact and allows more animals to be allocated per square meter.

- Waste management

In the free stall, you will have to make specific management for the waste, as you will not be able to throw away in a field of mixed sand. In compost barn, on the other hand, only about 30% of the waste produced goes to treatment, and there is no mixture of material that cannot be thrown in an agricultural area.

Still in doubt about which system to use?

The two accommodation systems are excellent and have their particularities and challenges. What counts is that you have well-defined and correct work processes on your property, ensuring animal comfort and high productivity for your herd.

If you still have doubts about the subject, leave your comment or contact Reafrio technicians. We are on hand to help you!