Editor's Note: This Tip of the Week is brought to you by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association.


Cows spend approximately 10 to 14 hours resting and the remainder eating or standing. Excessive standing has been linked to aggravated lameness and other forms of discomfort. The initial purpose of cow stalls was to maintain overall cleanliness of the facility. However, recent designs consider cow comfort, cleanliness and injury prevention.


It is recommended to size cow stalls for the largest cows in the herd as it is easier for smaller sized cows to rest in a bigger stall. When designing stalls, consider the four common resting positions:

  • Short - occurs during deepest slumber
  • Long - cow's legs are stretched out
  • Narrow - legs are tucked under the body
  • Wide - cow is on its side and stretched out

Benefits to providing comfortable resting areas and well-designed stalls for heifers include: 

  • Improved milk production
  • Reduced cow injuries 
  • Reduced lameness
  • Increased longevity
  • Cleaner cows

Well-designed stalls allow freedom and ease of access to stall and feed. Existing stalls can be improved by redesigning the surface to increase comfort, increasing the volume of bedding, performing frequent cleanings and preventing overcrowding.


Stall designs should also consider the cow's movement. In order for cows to get into a sitting or standing position, they need to lunge forward or to the side. With this in mind, the length of the stall must be carefully taken into account. Neck rails and cow dividers should not be too low/high or too far back. Careful design and accurate measurement of stalls should prevent entrapment and injuries.


Don't trade overall cleanliness of the facility for injuries due to improper stall design. Structural integrity of stalls should never be compromised. 


Click here for a detailed webinar discussing Steps to Improving Existing Freestalls.


Source: Penn State University. (Dan McFarland and John Tyson). (2010). Improving existing dairy stalls.[Video webcast]. In Technology Tuesdays Webinar Series.