Design Considerations for Dairy Cattle Free Stalls

Dairy April 27, 2010 Print Friendly and PDF


An ideal free stall will allow a cow to recline, rise, and change position without coming into contact with any portion of the stall except the base or bedding. Items such as partitions, neck rails, brisket tubes, and stall supports should be guides that define the cow’s resting area but do not hinder her movements or result in injuries or entrapment.

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Sizing a Free Stall

The numbers, illustrations, and diagrams in this detail sheet provide guidance in how to size a free stall for cow comfort and use and convenient maintenance. Important items to consider in selecting and installing free stalls include:

  • Cow size variations by breed, age, and stage of lactation
  • Open or closed front free stalls
  • Base and bedding that provide a comfortable and confident surface for resting
  • Lunge space for cow to extend her body into as she reclines and rises
  • Convenient maintenance that allows caretakers to keep cows clean, dry, and comfortable
Suggested dimensions for open- and closed-front free stalls for mature dairy cattle.
Animal Weight
Total Stall Length
Closed Front
Total Stall Length
Open Front
Length to Brisket Tube or Board
Length to Neck Rail
Stall Width Center to Center
Height to Top of Partition
Height to Neck Rail
Brisket Board or Tube Height
900-1100 90-96 78-82 64-66 62-64 41-43 42-44 42-44 4-6
1100-1300 96-102 80-86 66-68 64-66 43-45 44-46 44-46 4-6
1300-1500 102-108 90-96 68-70 66-68 45-48 46-48 46-48 4-6
1500-1700 108-114 96-102 70-72 68-70 48-52 48-52 48-52 4-6

(See illustrations of varying stall configurations blow.)

This information provides guidance as to how much space each stall will occupy and where to place the components. It is based on values found in the literature and field experiences. The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ASABE), Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service (NRAES), Midwest Plan Service (MWPS), Dairy Practices Council (DPC), as well as various dairy and veterinary publications and manufacturers’ literature are also sources of information. Final adjustments of the components will require careful observation of the cows and their stall use such as:

  • Do cows readily and easily use the stalls?
  • Are there injuries, punctures, abrasions, or swelling to hocks, legs, hips, etc.?
  • Do cows have to push, bang, or bump against stall components to recline, rise, or change positions?

FreestallDesign Fig 1,2.jpg

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Dairy Idea Plan Number 821
Cow Free stall (Cubicle), Types and Details
Penn State Agricultural & Biological Engineering
Cooperative Extension

Author Information

R. Graves
D. McFarland
J. Tyson
T. Wilson
Penn State University