Dry cow housing

Accommodation for dry cows must be managed and maintained equally as well as that for milking cows to minimise the risk of injury and bacterial colonisation to the teats and udder.

Managing dry cows

Ventilation of dry cow housing

Good dry cow housing ventilation:

  • Creates a dry atmosphere to reduce bacterial numbers on bedding
  • Controls environmental mastitis (decreases bacterial survival time)
  • Avoids droughts

Detailed information about ventilation and housing is available to help you.

The following items must be assessed:

  • Outlet provision – for adult cows, the outlet should be at least 0.5 m2/cow
  • Inlet allowance – the total inlet area must be at least twice the outlet area, divided down each side of the building
  • Forced or mechanical ventilation could be used to improve the natural ventilation in dry cow housing

Loafing, feeding, scraping and slurry removal

Loafing areas:

  • Include non-lying, non-bedded, non-passageway and non-feeding areas
  • Allow cows to spread out, reducing faecal contamination and bullying
  • Must be at least 2 m2/cow

Feeding area should have at least 0.75 m of feed space per cow. Twice daily, scrape alleyways, loafing and feeding areas. Automatic scrapers must run often enough to keep alleyways clean and slurry must not flow over the sides of the scrapers.


Cubicles for dry cow groups at any stage should conform to the same standards as for milking cows. There must be:

  • As many cubicles as there are dry cows in the group
  • Appropriately sized cubicles for dry cows

Inorganic bedding material (for example, sand) in cubicles:

  • Is better for environmental mastitis (poorer bacterial survival)
  • Should be used wherever possible
  • Should be clean and applied to the cubicles every other day

Organic bedding material (for example, straw or sawdust) in cubicles:

  • Should be clean and applied to the cubicles every day

Inorganic/organic bedding in cubicles:

  • Twice daily, dung, soiling and wet bedding must be removed from cubicles
  • Sufficient bedding should maintain a dry environment and retain cow comfort
  • Drying agents (for example, lime) should be used to improve dryness

Yards used for dry cows

Dry cows require:

  • A bedded lying area of 1.25 m2/1,000 litres of milk/cow (herd annual milk yield)

Dry cow straw yards should:

  • Have excellent drainage, ± sand on top of hardcore or concrete
  • Aim to use 250 kg to bed each dry cow each month during the housing period
  • Use unchopped straw
  • Have new, clean, dry straw added once daily and the straw bedding should be spread evenly
  • Be completely cleaned out every month

Dry cow sand yards:

  • Can be very labour-intensive, but lower the risk of new mastitis cases
  • Should only have washed sand or sea sand applied
  • Should be cleared of dung from lying areas twice daily
  • Should be spread with fresh, clean sand in the lying areas once daily
  • Should be completely cleaned out every 6 months (or more often if necessary

Useful links


Managing mastitis

Control of environmental mastitis in lactation