3 Keys to Designing Cattle Barns for Healthy Livestock

Thanks to their large interior spans and quick, inexpensive construction, post frame barns are ideal for housing livestock. Whether you need an open shed to provide basic shelter in your pasture, a dairy barn with milking stations or a chicken house, you can have it sooner for less if you choose to work with a custom post frame barn builder.

To keep animals healthy, barns and other shelters must provide three things:

  1. Shelter from extreme weather
  2. A steady supply of fresh air
  3. Dry footing

The first job of a barn or shed is to shelter animals from weather extremes. Open pasture is the healthiest condition for animals most of the time, but even the hardiest animals need shelter from rain, snow, cold winter winds and hot summer sun. A shed that is open on one or more sides, with a solid wall angled to block prevailing winds, will be the healthiest choice for your animals for much of the year. Sometimes, however, an enclosed barn is necessary, particularly for young stock and during winter months.

Maintaining healthful air quality is always a challenge when keeping animals in an enclosed building. Animals naturally generate heat, noxious gases and humidity that can quickly reach unhealthy levels indoors. Since respiratory disease is a leading cause of death among cattle and other livestock, providing adequate air flow is critical, particularly in the summer heat.

Humidity is a key factor in indoor air quality. The average cow produces 3.5 gallons of urine and 65 pounds of manure daily. Since manure is about 90 percent water, that’s another 7 gallons of water. Respiration also adds another 3-4 gallons of humidity per animal per day inside the barn. All of that moisture has to go somewhere, and much of it is released into the air.

In addition to moisture, animals generate ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and bacteria. Fresh air flow continually removes those gases and contaminants from your barn to prevent respiratory distress.

Fresh air flow is also critical for cooling your barn in hot weather. Heat stress is another leading cause of animal death in livestock operations.

Ventilation can be provided by fans or a natural venting system that takes advantage of breezes and thermal exchange. An experienced livestock building designer can help you choose the best ventilation system for your operation.


This 40’x80’ building by Conestoga Buildings is ideal for livestock. It features 16’ walls.

The third key to indoor animal health is dry footing and bedding. Foot problems are common among all types of livestock and a major cause of lameness and illness among older animals. Your livestock barns and sheds should be located in a high and dry spot on your property with good drainage. Your building will also need to incorporate footing and bedding materials that manage moisture and waste effectively. Various bedding systems are available to provide the best conditions for your animals.

Whether you’re planning a run-in shed for cattle, a chicken house or a swine barn, we have the experience and knowledge to help you design post frame barn buildings to suit your budget, your timeline and your animals’ health. Contact a representative today to talk about your farm building needs.

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