Two-row barn vs three-row barn

Two-row barn vs three-row barn

This son and his father started to make plans for a new barn, which lead to some discussion. The son, who did a CowSignals workshop with Bengt Egil, had some ideas on how he wanted to design the barn. At first, the father and the barn designer didn't quite agree.

They decided to compare a two-row building with a three-row and this turned out to cause a minor difference in cost. In a two-row barn there was about 46 square meter more of sledges and the building became a little longer and more narrow than if it had been a tree-row barn. This didn't cause big differences in total.
The son eventually had the best arguments: in a two-row barn, it will be easier to get one feeding place for each cow. The cow traffic will be easier to oversee for both cows and farmer.

Besides choosing for a two-row system, they also decided on a stress-free calving line and another building for calf rearing. The stress-free calving line wil give an easier transition period and seperating the calf rearing in a different building will make it easier to have healthy calves.

On the picture we see father and son, both happy with their new design!

CowSignals advice: start by providing your cows with these three things first: a stress-free calving line, one feeding space per cow and a deep, soft bed for every cow.

Bengt Egil Elve is one of our CowSignals master trainers in Norway, doing an excellent job there. You can contact him via our website.

Comments (13)

Philip Rember

3 row barns are more popular in northern colder climates to concentrate heat into a smaller area. They also are more interesting to robot farms where bunk space is less of an issue.
2 row barns lend themselves better to cow management. In a tail to tail setup cows can be shunted from one alley to the other for various day to day operations such as scraping and bedding. Ventilation in warm months can be easier in a narrower barn.

Jason D

2 row barns work well for 1 or 2 robots, but once you milk more than that, the barn becomes very long. We are in a 6 row barn in Canada.
Another thing to consider is that the rain blowing in the curtains won't be on the beds if it's a 2 row head to head.
We find head to head stalls are nice to store more bedding in between them
It would be interesting to see how they figured out the cost difference.


I have 2 and 3 row barns. last shed has 2 rows of head to head cubicles and feed cows round the outside. this works best. watching cows 3 row barns limit feed space and any older cows or lame or shy loose condition and don t perform to their potential. tempreture is irrelevant.


I think the best stall is a 2 row. Everything is in perfect balance. As for robot or a normal milking parlour i think it makes no difference......

Muhammad Iftikhar Baloch

I am a bigener in this field. I believe that two row barn is very good for control and purposes. No matter how long the barn is, the width of both sides of barn and direction of barn also matter a lot.
I can share my experience of Pakistan only. My barn is easy to west. The sunrise and sun set is from east to west but during winter the sun moves In arc/ semi circle, so at noon it is towards south. As a result, the sun is inside the barn during winter. During summer the move of the sun is a bit streight from east to west.
The second issue is the rain. In Pakistan it generally rains either from north-west or from east. So the width of north side needs to be increased.

Neil Howie

I have worked with 2 and 3 row barns which have worked well. Where they have a choice some cows prefer to lie facing a wall rather than another cow. Feed bunk space can be compromised with 3 row barns, but this can be overcome by designing in good sized cross passages, at intervals of no more than 20 cubicles.I am working with a robotic milking , robotic feeding farm , and here bunk space is no issue.
For two row sheds there is the choice of head to head versus tail to tail. For me the key issue is whether labour time allowances dictate being able to shut cows either on the feed fence passage or on the cubicle passage whilst the chores are done, or there will be staff available to do the chores whilst the cows are out of the shed.
For larger units a four row , with two lines of head to heads, and feed bunks on the outsides allow flexibility, for example three rows to one side and a single row to the other which can be for transition cows and or heifers.


We have recently built a three row barn. Cows have been in for a year and feed space is not an issue we feed cows twice a day and push up with a robot. The cost is the reason we opted for a three row each cubicle bed would have cost an extra £700


A 2 row barn is the best stall for a cow; enough feeding and resting space.
The stall design is good for a milking parlor as wel as for robot milking.
Certenly when the difference in cost is so small !

Brian Paxton

We have three row barns is South Africa but we are having a bit of a problem with heat stress in the cows. We find in winter the cows are comfortable but in summer the become a bit distressed. My suggestion is warmer climates is a two row bar as the ventilation is a lot better.

Muhammad Iftikhar Baloch

My observation is that the number of cows those can be accommodated in three row barn cannot stand together at the time to eat In the same length of barn. Secondly the area available to each cow within the barn is much less than the required area. E.g in a 100 ft x 40 ft (single side) can accomudate 65 cows but each cow will gets 61.5 ft in total. Secondly 65 cows cannot together stand at the feeding stall. This an cause overcrowding in the barn and the cows may suffocate during summer even during winter

Joep Driessen

Thanks everyone, gor sharing your thoughts. Together we know more!

In china only 2 row barns are build!!
If you have a 3 row: think about extra feed space outside or make a 4th row and an extra feed lane!

Carsten Houmann

This summer have worked 11 years giving advice to dairy farmers in Norway. In Norway I will say that a 2 row barn vil be the best even you go for robot milk or not.
You will have 1 eating place pr. cow - easy to have control on all cows - also when they er laying.
Stress free calving line is importend for good upstart for next lactation.
I like the decision with a special building for calves. They will get healthy calves with this.
What I missed in this case is the decision for dry cows.
Remember, that the dry periode is the start of new lactation.
And at last - when we have to look at Norway and what is needed in construction of buildings causes snow and wind. I think a narrow and longer building is lower in cost causes a lighter construction.

Sonja Abraham

Here''s a comment of one of my students. I agree with the son, not because of the costs, but because it is better for the animals. The new 2-row barn will improve the management. Each cow or nearly each one has its own feeding spot which will reduce stress. Also you have a better view on them. Separating the cows is faster and easier, so this is also stress reducing and as the calves are housed at another barn, they will be healthier when they get into the barn with the older cows. I think this new 2 row barn has more advantages considering the fact that it improves cowhealth.

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