Building freestalls for cows is an excellent and simple way to keep them and their bedding nice and clean. Read on for instructions and why we love using these for our cows!
We currently have two Jersey dairy cows. They’re both pregnant at the moment so we’re hoping one of the calves is a heifer that we can add to our herd.
Honey is 5 years old and Buttercup is about to be three. I milk them twice a day, morning and evening, and we love them dearly!
But they can be messy. Very messy! They like to lay in places that I rather they didn’t but when they’re outside on the pasture, there’s not much I can do about it. We scoop out the pasture to keep it as clean as possible but they still find a way to lay in the the mud and poo sometimes!
But when they’re inside the barn in their stall, I have a way of keeping their beds nice and clean which in turn, keeps them nice and clean! And a clean cow with a clean udder is important when milking.
I’ll tell you why we love our freestalls and how we built them right in our barn.
What is a Freestall?
A freestall is a bedding area for cows where they can lay down and chew their cud. Many large dairies use them but even a small, one cow family can have one.
The main point of a freestall is that the cow can walk into it but cannot turn around in it. They must back out. This way, they won’t poop or pee in their bed and then walk around in it.
If they do go to the bathroom, it is at the end of the stall and easy to clean up. Their bedding stays nice and clean and lasts much longer, saving time and money on constantly cleaning up and replacing bedding.
The cow also stays much cleaner because she’s not laying in a dirty bed. Her bed is clean so she, and her udder, stays clean. A clean udder makes milking much more sanitary and easier.
Cows spend a lot of time laying down so they should have a comfortable and clean place to relax and chew.
Building Freestalls for Cows
A freestall can easily be put up in a barn or other structure that a cow has access to. We have a small barn with a door that’s always open so our cows can go in and out from their pasture as they please.
You might not have a barn but hopefully you have another structure or at least an area with a cover where your dairy cow can go when there’s bad weather.
We have 2 by 6’s for the sides and neck bar of our stalls. A friend of ours has spruce poles that they cut down on their property. Be creative! You can also purchase metal freestalls like the dairies use.
The freestall has two sides at an angle, with about 4 feet in between. A stall larger than 4 feet wide would allow the cow to be able to turn around in the stall and make a mess.
The stall should be about 7 feet long. These measurements can be different depending on the size of your cow. We have an average size Jersey but you might have a larger cow or even a smaller one!
Once you have the sides up, the final touch is the neck bar. You can see it laying horizontally across the top of the stall sides in the photo below. The point of the neck bar is so when the cow stands up, she must back out to be able to lift her head up all of the way.
The flooring of our barn is dirt. This is problematic in that the cows’ hooves constantly tear it up and it becomes a muddy, mucky mess. In the winter, the mud freezes unevenly and makes a difficult walking surface for them.
Sand is a great flooring and bedding material for cows. It’s soft on their hooves and on their knees when they’re laying down and getting up.
Sand is also easy to scoop and keep clean. We love having it in their stalls and highly recommend using it. It’s inexpensive and easy to grab a few truckloads.
How to Use a Freestall
You can lay additional bedding on top of the base layer of sand. We use pine shavings and then add straw on top during the winter months for more warmth.
Cows love routine so adding something new can sometimes take a few days for them to accept. Try feeding them their hay in the new stall at first to get them to go in.
Our girls were interested right away and after we gave them a flake of hay, they hung out in their stalls for a while. Then we snuck down later to see if we could find them laying in them and we did!
Now we just scoop out any poop at the end of the stall as needed throughout the day. Much easier and their bedding lasts a lot longer. We just fluff it up every now and then and add a fresh layer as needed.
Freestalls are a great way to keep your family cow’s bedding nice and clean which, in turn, keeps them clean. This makes for easier and more sanitary milking. I highly recommend building your own, your cows will love them!