Loose Housed Barn - Slatted Concrete


3 min read

Comfortable lying surfaces for Benefits Limitations System design considerations Overall likely costs

A loose housed barn with slatted concrete is a fully covered facility, usually with a plastic film over a frame type roof, and a concrete slatted floor covering an effluent holding bunker that is large enough to hold effluent for extended periods. Benefits of this style of housing include increased feed and herd management, while limitations include high capital outlay and increased building repair and maintenance.

Comfortable lying surfaces for cows

Cow comfort is crucial for animals to maintain condition and well-being. Lying down is very important to cows. It provides rest, opportunity to sleep, and reduces the risk of lameness, which leads to better animal welfare. The welfare code requires a minimum of eight hours of lying time per day. Cows that are kept in off-paddock facilities for more than 16 hours a day for more than three consecutive days must be provided with a well-drained lying area with a compressible soft surface. For more information on lying surfaces for cows, see the Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare (Minimun standards 6 and 9) here: Dairy Cattle (mpi.govt.nz).



  • Minimise pasture damage when soils are overly wet or prevent overgrazing (eg when pasture is insufficient to meet full herd demand). This should increase pasture production
  • Better feed utilisation compared with paddock feeding


  • Better herd monitoring may be possible, e.g. heat detection, animal welfare, BCS.
  • Reduction in herd lameness may be possible, e.g. from reduction of cows standing in mud


  • Opportunities to to capture all effluent and apply to crop land or to pasture when soil moisture levels are appropriate
  • Reduce farm maintenance costs (associated with paddock renovations following pugging, herd or machinery traffic)


  • Medium-high capital outlay to establish
  • Unless concrete has rubber matting not suited to long periods of use. Lameness can increase on slatted concrete.
  • Not suitable for calving unless additional provision of bedding material to prevent damage to calves
  • Business more reliant on quality supplements being grown or purchased (vulnerable to season price changes)
  • Supplementary feed costs typically greater than pasture
  • Increased building repair and maintenance
  • Effluent management requires additional activities

System design considerations


  • Location in relation to herd access - close to dairy (milking shed) is convenient but also dependent on location of feed storage areas and facilities intended use
  • Consenting - Council requirements for subsurface drainage and sealing usually require owner to demonstrate no leakage
  • Roofed structures require structural engineering to take in to account wind, snowfalls, etc.


  • Feed supply management plan – what is grown on farm/support blocks versus what is imported. Access to grain, silage and ability to feed with least traffic movements
  • Increased feed bunker area and machinery if increasing supplementary feeding


  • Must provide correct stocking density (3.5-4.0m2/cow) and feed face space per cow. Stocking density of 3-4.5m2/cow only when used as feedpad. Recommend that at this density it is used for less than 8 hours per day
  • Minimum 9m2/cow with additional soft bedding required for 24/7 use over extended periods of time (several days eg during winter)


  • Consider effluent type (liquid and solid manure proportion depends on dry cow or lactating cow use, type of feed etc)
  • Removal and application of effluent
  • Size and usage will dictate cleaning frequency

Adviser tips

  • Useful where additional effluent storage needed but could be cheaper options, e.g. roof over feedpad, expand pond storage
  • Case studies and analysis indicate that once built, many farmers increase cows and levels of supplementary feeding
  • Costs of feeding supplements is typically 1.5x purchase cost of feed per kg

Overall Likely Costs

Feedpad use only 3-4.5m2/cow $1500-$2100
Facility including feed bins/alleys, water, bedding, machinery $2200-$2600
Basic, Loose housed operational facility only for 400 cows, (no shares or stock) $880,000-$1,040,000


9-11m2/cow required for more than 8 hours per day use over several days doubles the cost

Ranges dependent on roof type, foundation type, flooring and effluent extraction, amount of concrete, including for feed areas, etc

Significant component costs of infrasturcture:

  • Site preparation earthworks
  • Base materials (eg clay, rock)
  • Roof and trusses
  • Concrete feeding area/s (for cows to stand on and/or feed to be fed out on)

Possible additional costs:

  • Dairy company shares
  • Feed bunkers
  • First year feed inventory (if needed)
  • Additional stock
Last updated: Sep 2023

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