Expert Insights

Looking to Tackle Dairy Barn Ventilation in The New Year?

As we move into the new year, many take stock of goals, growth areas and opportunities for improvement across their dairy operations. In some cases, that includes making smart investments that leave a small financial footprint but have wide-ranging impacts throughout your dairy. One such upgrade to consider is dairy barn ventilation.

Now, it’s important to consider that ventilation upgrades and investments can be tackled in a tiered, financially sensitive way that can be actually help dairies create smaller test scenarios in segments of their operation before fully investing in a comprehensive environmental system.

The following list takes you through five specific approaches to dairy barn ventilation technology investments that can deliver positive results for your dairy in areas from productivity to reproduction to overall animal health and wellness.

1. Targeting the Parlor and Holding Area for Dairy Barn Ventilation

Before we go into detail here, it’s important to note that Nos. 1 & 2 on this list are based completely on preference. Both represent great options for taking the first step into making a ventilation infrastructure investment.

For smaller herds, the parlor and holding area is definitely a great place to direct a ventilation infrastructure investment. Since the parlor is a consolidated area where most of your milking herd congregates and spends time during the course of the day, it’s the one spot on the operation where a dairy barn ventilation upgrade can touch nearly every cow in your herd.

The best bet for efficient ventilation is running a naturally ventilated parlor – tunnel or cross-vented alignments both work – with the addition of some recirculating fans that feature high-pressure fogging units that achieve evaporative cooling without adding to the humidity and moisture levels in the parlor and holding area. The goal of those recirculating fans is to achieve air speeds of 5 MPH at the cow level.

2. Dedication to Cooling Dry Cows

The stigma of dry cows being a non-productive cost center on dairies is one that is thankfully going by the wayside, because investing in proper dairy barn ventilation for your dry cow pens can have significant positive upstream and downstream implications on your dairy.

First, this is the lowest-cost investment you can make due to the fact that about 10-15 percent of your overall herd are going to be in the dry cow stage at any given time. And much like the parlor and holding area, the starting point is overhead recirculating fans equipped with high-pressure fogging units.

By improving ventilation and increasing overall comfort with your dry cows, research has found that it’s possible to achieve higher productivity and milk quality when those animals begin milking. Having cows comfortable also increases lying time, which in turn results in increased blood flow to the udder, which is important in overall udder development and growth. Improved feed consumption and utilization is also a biproduct of dry cow comfort tied to appropriate ventilation solutions.

3. Fans in the Free Stall Barn

While the free stall barn will require a larger investment, it’s the best way to cover the vast majority of your herd with fresh air at the cow level for the longest period of time. Again, the first step in ventilating a free stall barn efficiently is adding recirculating fans with optional high-pressure fogging capabilities.

If your budget is hospitable to additional equipment, our fourth recommendation is worth considering.

4. Consider a Combo System for Dairy Barn Ventilation

Recirculating fans are the foundation by which efficient and cost-effective ventilation is built. However, there’s much more to consider for maximizing overall dairy ventilation effectiveness, especially in hotter, more humid climates.

The first element to consider is developing a neutral pressure living area where exhaust fans at the back end of the structure is pulling-out as much air is coming in. The second element is combining negative pressure fans that drive fresh, cool air into the structure, onto recirculating fans that drive air down to the cow level, then leverage exhaust fans to move warmer, humid air out of the structure.

There are a number of different options for considering power-ventilation combinations depending on the design of your barn or structure, but there are solutions that work great regardless of climate and geography.

5. Make the Future Comfortable

Finally, much like focusing on the dry cow holding pen, another smaller demographic within your dairy is pointing a ventilation investment at calves younger than 6 months of age. Young cows benefit significantly from fresh air directed to the cow level. Those benefits range from improved respiratory development, better feed intake and conversion, and in some instances, better coping ability with future exposure to hot, humid weather conditions and borderline heat stress.

Regardless of which solution might be best for your dairy, it’s imperative that you consult a professional dairy ventilation provider that can provide you with on-farm consultation and design services that can help determine the right ventilation investment for your operation.

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