The Innovation of Dairy Barn Ventilation

Updated: Jun 20



In the 1900s, the concept of dairy barn ventilation systems was an up-and-coming trend that very few knew the importance of. While flipping through vintage catalogs published by Hunt-Helm-Ferris & Co., Inc (Star Line) and The James Manufacturing Co., one thing became apparent. These companies were interested in educating dairy farmers about the importance of ventilation within their dairy barns. Ventilation is more than just ventilators. There is a correlation between the structure of the barn and the ventilation outfit that must work in harmony to achieve maximum ventilation.


Anatomy of a Dairy Barn Ventilation System

When an area is properly ventilated, it brings plenty of fresh air in from outside while transferring excessive moisture and foul-smelling air out of the building. Imagine what it would be like inside a dairy barn that has inadequate ventilation – the smell alone would make it an impossible work environment. With plenty of air moving through the barn, fresh air is consistently flowing in to push the foul air out.

The best way to implement a dairy barn ventilation system is to consider where the cows will be in the barn. Picture this – since there are two primary ways to place cows in a dairy barn, when you walk in this is what you might see:


Cows facing the center of the barn: The interior of the barn would have two rows of cattle with a center walkway and feeding troughs. Cattle would be lined up, rump facing the exterior walls. This placement is important because it puts the excrement more focused to the outward facing walls than the center of the barn. The foul air outtake flue in these barns is positioned along the sides of the walls, carrying the air up and out the ventilator and out through the cupola. The fresh air intakes were then positioned on either side of the cows, pouring fresh air in and pushing out the foul air.


Cows facing exterior walls: The same logic of airflow applies when the cows are facing exterior walls, it is the placement of the foul air outtake flue that is different. The best placement is for the flue to be positioned at the rear of the cow, so in this placement the flues are closer to the center of the barn. The fresh air intakes remain on the outer walls, bringing in fresh air that pushes the foul air up the flue and out the ventilator and cupola.


Built with Purpose

Dairy barns (built in the early 1900s and today) are built with a purpose in mind. The roof of the dairy barn is built to accommodate proper ventilation, including the connections between flue and ventilator. The cupolas on most dairy barns are adorned with a weathervane, which changes direction as the wind blows.


You can see this unique structure within the Shoenberg Farms dairy barn. From the roof to the flues, the restoration project will transform the space which once held the dairy cattle purchased by J.W. Abbott for the farm. The community will get the opportunity to experience history while making memories of their own.

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