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Bulletin #1021, Space Planning for Small, Multipurpose Livestock Barns

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Space Planning for Small, Multipurpose Livestock Barns

Prepared by Extension Professor Donna Coffin

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Design With Goals and Versatility in Mind

The design of barns and other livestock facilities on small-scale farms in Maine depends on the number and types of livestock raised, grain- and feed-storage needs, and production methods used. Planning for a new livestock building, or adapting existing facilities, starts with establishing goals. These may include expanding or starting a new livestock enterprise, or improving labor or production efficiency for an existing enterprise. When designing facilities, allow as much versatility as possible for future changes. A venture that starts out as a hobby can develop into a larger enterprise to offset costs, and eventually lead to profit.

The state of Maine does have certain requirements for housing and/or shelter for various livestock species; see the appropriate sections of the Maine Revised Statutes. Use the following tables to estimate space needs for livestock housing, feed and bedding storage, and support facilities to maintain a small livestock operation in Maine. A general-purpose barn generally houses more than one kind of livestock and feed. On a small-scale farm, it may be the only building needed to shelter livestock and store crops. But on any size farm it is important to have an extra, unattached smaller building with the capacity to quarantine animals that are either new to the farm or currently ill.

Table 1. Animal units

A common denominator used in planning for livestock is the “animal unit.” Essentially, an animal unit is based on feed consumption. For example, it is generally estimated that the equivalent feed allowance of one mature cow is five pigs raised up to the size of 250 pounds.

Type of livestock Typical weights (lb) Equivalent number of animal units1 Head per animal unit 2
Horses 1,000–1,600 1.00 1
Cows 1,000–1,400 1.00 1
Bulls 1,200–1,600 1.00 1
Young cattle one year old 500–700 0.50 2
Calves 50–500 0.25 4
Foals (weanlings) 350–450 0.50 2
Brood sows or boars 250–350 0.40 2.5
Hogs raised to 250 Up to 250 0.20 5
Ewes or does 150–250 0.20 5
Lambs or kids Up to 100 0.07 14
Poultry (per 100)* 6–10 each 1.00 100
Chickens raised (per 100) Up to 8 lb 1.00 100

1 Equivalent number of animal units represented by one of each type of livestock given.

2 Number of individuals of each given type of livestock that make up one animal unit.

* Excluding turkeys, which may exceed 25 lb.

Space Recommendations and Dimensions

Table 2. Storage space recommendations for feed and bedding

Kind of feed or bedding Pounds per cubic feet (approx.) Cubic feet per ton (approx.)
Baled hay (closely stacked) 8–10 200–250
Baled straw 7–8 250–300
Sawdust 12 160–170
Shavings (compressed bale) 10 200
Bedding wood pellets 30 70
Bulk grain3
– Shelled corn 45 45
– Ear corn 28 72
– Oats 26 77
– Wheat 48 42
Feed—concentrate, supplements
– Grains and supplement (mixed) 32 62
– High-protein supplement 50 40
– Bran 13 150
– Linseed or soybean meal 30–40 50–65

3 One bushel of small grain equals 1 1/4 cu. ft.; one bushel of ear corn equals approximately 2 1/2 cu. ft.

1. Pen-space recommendations in barn

  • Provide a separate pen for each species of livestock.
  • Allow 100 to 120 square feet per animal unit based on table 1 (complete confinement).
  • Allow 50 to 60 square feet when animals have access to outside runs.
  • Provide separate maternity rooms or pens with supplemental heat for expected winter or early spring births: 100 to 150 square feet for a cow or mare, 25 square feet for a ewe or doe, or 50 square feet for a sow.
  • Creep-feed space for young livestock: 1 1/2 square feet per lamb, kid, or piglet; and 4 to 5 square feet per calf or foal.
  • Allow 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 square feet of floor space per mature laying hen in flocks of 25 or fewer.

2. Feeders and waterers

  • Allow about 24 inches of feeder space per individual animal when limited feed is fed at regular intervals. A little less is needed for smaller livestock such as sheep, and a little more for very large cows.
  • Provide one feeding space for every four animals if self-feeders are used.
  • Provide one drinking space for each pen and for each 25 animals.
  • One-gallon waterers are sufficient for younger poultry, but they don’t hold enough water for older birds. Three- to five-gallon waterers, or automatic nipples or cup dispensers, can be used for older birds.
  • Provide one nest for each 4 to 5 hens, and 3 to 4 inches of feeder space.

Table 3. Space dimensions

Livestock Minimum width of pen (ft.)1 Height of partition (in.)2 Height of ceiling (ft.)3 Animal access door (in.)4 Height of throat of manger (in.)
Horses 8 84 8 – 12 48 x 96 38 (foals = 32)
Cows 5 54 8 – 10 36 x 60 30
Calves 3 48 16 x 365 24
Hogs 4 36 7 – 8 24 x 36
Piglets 2 36 8 x 245
Sheep/goats 3 42 8 – 10 24 x 32 12
Lambs/kids 2 42 11 x 245 8
Poultry Ceiling height 7 – 8 12 x 16

1 For allowing animal to turn around with ease.

2 Partitions should be movable so that various pen arrangements can be formed.

3 For cleaning barn with tractor loader the minimum height should be 8 or 9 ft. During winter months the manure pack may build up as much as 3 to 4 ft. deep unless frequently cleaned. A clear height of 10 ft. allows a manure pack of 3 ft. (desirable in open barns) without severely limited head room. Reduce clear height to 9 ft. in closed warm buildings or 8 ft. where manure is removed from the barn daily. Maximum height that baled hay can be piled from a truck bed without excessive labor or elevator is 10 to 12 ft.

4 Minimum width by minimum height.

5 Creep feeder. Varies with size of animal. The idea is to let young stock through while keeping the mothers out.


To prevent loss of feed quality, storage areas should be clean, dry, and rodent-free with minimum exposure to sunlight. A system of noting when feeds are placed into storage will enable farmers to use oldest feeds first.

  • Roughages are bulky feeds, such as pasture crops, hay, and silage, all of which contain considerable fiber. Roughage in table 4 refers to dry hay.
  • Concentrates are feeds such as grain and grain by-products that provide a large amount of nourishment in proportion to animal weight. Corn is the most common grain used as a concentrate.
  • Supplements—generally high-protein—are used to supply the additional proteins essential for growing and milk-producing animals.

Table 4. Feed, bedding, and water recommendations1,2

Type of livestock Roughages3 Bedding3 Concentrates grain3 High protein supplement3 Water
Horses 2 1 to 1 1/2 1 8 to 12
Cattle 1 1/2 to 4 1 1/2 to 2 1 to 44 1/4 10 to 30
Swine 1 to 1 1/2 1 to 4 1/4 10 to 15
Sheep /goats 1 to 4 1 1 to 24 Optional 10 to 15
Poultry 0.2 1 1 to 25 6 to 9

1 Based on animal units in Table 1.

2 For use in estimating space recommendations only. Feeding livestock a balanced ration depends upon many factors too numerous to itemize here. For further information on feeding, consult your county University of Maine Cooperative Extension office.

3 Tons per 200-day storage period per animal unit.

4 In some cases animals are fed little or no concentrate or supplement—for example, cattle on good pasture, wintering beef cows, and dry ewes. Feeder stock are fed less hay and more grain for weight gain.

5 Chicken mash.

Table 5. Recommended dimensions for tie stalls1 for horses and cows2

Width of stall Length of stall3
800 lb cow 3’ 6” 4’ 10”
1,200 lb cow 4’ 5’ 6”
1,600 lb and over 4’ 8” 6’ 2”
Horses (medium) 5’ 12’
Horses (small) 5’ 9’
Ponies 3’ 6’

1 Chain or rope tie (not stanchion).

2 When using stalls, a litter alley 6 ft. wide with a gutter is recommended.

3 Length of dairy stalls is distance from feed manger to manure gutter. Length of horse stalls includes 2 ft. for feed box.

Table 6. Recommended minimum widths for service passages1,2

Kind of passage Use Minimum width
Feed alley Minimum recommended 3’4”
Feed alley For feed cart 4’
Driveway For wagon, spreader, truck 9’ (preferably 10’)
Doors and gate Drive-through 9’ (preferably 10’)
Doors and gate To small pens 4’

1 In general, the recommendations for service passages are similar, regardless of the kind of animals.

2 As an estimate, plan on 15% to 20% of total area for service passages.

A space planning rule-of-thumb

For a single-story building with a ceiling height of 10 feet, approximately one-third to one-half of the total space available is needed for livestock shelter; one-third for roughage and bedding storage (200 days); and one-third for access alleyways, feed/grain storage, and other facilities.

Calculate the amount of hay storage needed for 5 sheep for 150 days. Hay will be stacked 8 feet high.

A = 1 animal unit
B = 150 days / 200 days = .75
C = 2 1/2 tons
D = 225 cu. ft. per ton

Formula: (A x B x C x D) / storage height

1 x .75 x 2.5 x 225 = 422 cu.ft.
422 / 8 ft. = 53 sq.ft.
or an area 7.25 ft. x 7.25 ft.

Example of how to determine feed and bedding space requirements:

  1. Determine the number of animal units from table 1. You will want to run separate calculations for different livestock if feed rations are to be substantially different.
  2. Divide the total number of days you plan to store feed by 200. Note that if the usual Maine storage period of approximately 200 days (7 months) is planned for, the result will be 1.
  3. Estimate tons of feed or bedding required for 200 days from table 4.
  4. Estimate cubic feet per ton from table 2.

Now multiply A x B x C x D. This gives the spatial requirements in cubic feet. Divide this figure by the planned storage height in feet. The result is the area required for that particular feed storage in square feet. The square root of this number will give you the floor space needed to accommodate the feed or bedding. (Note: Do not plan to store bagged feed more than 5 feet deep.)

Manure Storage

The amount of manure generated per animal depends on the turnout schedule for the animals and the manure management scheme followed by the producer (daily clean-out of soiled bedding versus seasonal clean-out of manure pack) as well as the amount of roughage in the diet. If using the manure-pack method of manure management, aeration of the lower layers—via a tractor-mounted rototiller or chisel plow—will allow faster composting of the manure pack.

Table 7. Manure storage sizing per animal unit1

Species Daily manure production including bedding (cu. ft.) Storage volume for 200 days (cu. ft.) Volume of bedding pack after 200 days (cu. ft.)
Cow (dairy) 2 400 250
Cow (beef) 1 to 1 1/4 250 150
Swine 1 200 90
Sheep and goats 1/2 100 60
Poultry 1 200 60
Horses 2 400 250

1 G. D. Wells, ed., Small Farms—Livestock Buildings and Equipment (Ithaca: NRAES, 1984), 50.

Parts of this publication were adapted with permission from John C. Porter and David C. Seavey, Housing and Space Guidelines for Livestock (Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, 2009).


Extension Professor Richard Brzozowski
Extension Assistant Professor Anne Lichtenwalner
Livestock Specialist Cindy Kilgore (Maine Department of Agriculture)


Bradley, A.L., Manure Management for Small and Hobby Farms. Brattleboro: Northeast Recycling Council, Inc., 2008.

Damerow, G. Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens: Care, Feeding, Facilities. North Adams: Storey Publishing, 1995.

Fulhage, C. Manure Management in Hoop Structures. Columbia: University of Missouri Extension, 2003., accessed 12/22/11.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2013

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