Calf barn ventilation

Calves need plenty of fresh air, even in cold weather, whether in hutches or in naturally or mechanically ventilated barns. The fresh air removes moisture, ammonia and airborne pathogens. Mechanically ventilated barns should provide at least 15 cubic feet per minute (CFM) per calf even at very cold temperatures. Some recommendations are to use 25 CFM per calf. Uniform fresh air distribution is important but difficult in calf barns. Well-designed tube systems are a good way to distribute fresh air uniformly throughout the barn. It is critical that ventilation air does not create cold air drafts. Plenty of clean dry bedding that allows nesting helps calves retain heat and avoid drafts. Remove wet and soiled bedding to reduce ammonia emissions.

Lactating cow barn ventilation

Dairy barns can be ventilated using natural, mechanical, tunnel or cross ventilation. It is important to provide at least 50 CFM per cow of fresh ventilation air in cold weather. More air exchange is needed to keep humidity levels below 80% when it is cold because cold air cannot pick up much moisture. When outside temperatures drop below -20°F, it is also very difficult to keep the barn around 0°F to keep manure from freezing. Fresh air needs to be uniformly distributed to maintain uniform conditions for all of the cows.

Check curtains

Curtains on natural ventilated barns should be checked for tears and holes or loose sections that permit uncontrolled airflow during windy weather. Holes and loose sections can allow large amounts of fresh air to enter in some barn areas while other areas have little fresh air. Poor fresh air distribution will lead to cold drafty spots and stuffy humid spots.

Check fans and inlets

Fresh air inlets and ventilating fans in mechanically ventilated barns need to be checked. Make sure that the inlets are well distributed, clear and adjusted as needed. Cold weather fans should be checked to make sure that they run well and are lubricated. Hot weather fans that will not run can be sealed off so that they do not let in cold air. Fans with shutters should be checked to make sure that the shutters close when the fans do not run. Leaky shutters can produce cold, drafty spots.

Check thermostats

Double check if thermostat settings for fans and heaters are correct for cold weather operation. A hand held thermometer can be used to check the thermostat sensor. Propane and natural gas heaters

If you use propane or natural gas to heat water or the milking center, make sure to check that the fresh air supply and chimney are clear and that fuel lines are not damaged. Check screens

Screens are used to keep birds, leaves and other airborne debris out of inlets and air ducts. If you have a tube system for a calf barn or a fresh air inlet for a heater, office or break room in the milking center, clean the screen to remove dirt and debris.

Check that barn doors can be closed tightly to avoid excessive leaks.

Check doors

Doors to barns, milking centers and storage rooms should be checked to make sure that they open and close as needed and close completely. In windy weather, leaky barn doors can create drafty conditions. Leaky doors between heated and unheated areas can waste heat in cold weather.


Check that barn doors can be closed tightly to avoid excessive leaks.

Snow removal

Last year the Midwest had snow that came and stayed. Were you happy with your snow removal? Did you have snow drifts in bad locations? How was the spring melt? Think about things that you can do to manage snow drifts and divert snow melt from going through cow yards, feed and bedding storage areas, and high traffic areas. Cow yards will dry out more quickly in the spring if snow melt is diverted away from them. Also, divert roof runoff to keep the water from entering cow yards or running through low spots that animals, people and equipment must go through.

Manure management

Fall is a common time to empty manure storage facilities and land apply manure at agronomic rates. This is also a good time to check manure handling equipment used to collect and transport manure to storage. Check pumps and motors, remove dirt and accumulated manure, look for wear and lubricate equipment. Look for solids build up in storages facilities too.

Drain sprinkler systems

Drain water from sprinkler and misting systems to prevent damage by frozen water when temperatures drop below freezing.