Home Sweet Home: 3 Popular Types of Dairy Farms

Did you know there are different kinds of dairy farms? Similar to the differences between your home and friends’ homes, dairy farms are designed differently for various climates and each farm’s individual needs.

A farmer’s first priority in selecting a type of dairy farm is always cow comfort. Dairy farmers know comfortable and content cows are the most productive cows. In the Dairy MAX region, there are three common popular farm styles: freestall, drylot and pasture-based.

  • Freestall dairies. One of the coolest farm types, temperature wise, is the freestall dairy farm. Freestall dairies provide top-notch ventilation throughout their barns to keep cows cooler in hot summer months – which is vital to quality milk production. Freestall dairies consist of freestall barns, which are exactly what they sound like— they provide cows with the freedom to eat, drink and rest wherever and whenever they like. Cows are free to “stall,” or take up residence, in any open area under the barn. In addition to better airflow in warmer weather, freestall barns also keep cows warm and provide shelter from the harsh conditions of winter.
  • Drylot dairies. Drylot dairy farms are the perfect fit for drier climates. On drylot farms, cows are given access to shade and shelter on a large dry-dirt lot for relaxation. Cows have access to feed and water, with free reign to eat and drink as they please. Fans with misters are in feeding areas to make sure that cows stay cool on hot days. The cows in drylot dairies walk to the milking parlor to be milked two to three times each day before returning to their covered shelter.
  • Pasture-based dairies. In this more traditional setup, cows get an “all access pass” to green pastures to graze and rest when they are not being milked in the milking parlor. Pasture-based dairies also provide cows feed and water in the barns whenever they need it. Pasture-based dairies still provide cover for inclement weather when needed, but most often the cows stay outside of a barn. 

No matter which farm type a dairy farmer selects, the cows’ needs are always the top consideration. Dairies are designed to best suit the individual environment and to ensure dairy cows are always as comfortable as possible while producing the milk we love.

Learn more about cow care.

By Susan Allen

Susan grew up on a farm in northwest Oklahoma and has over 30 years of experience working in agriculture. She has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2007 and has worked with schools, health and wellness professionals and farmers. When she's not working, Susan is usually helping one of her kids with a 4-H project. Learn more about Susan

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