When the wall of the manure storage lagoon at Emcrest Farms Ltd. in Brantford, Ontario, unexpectedly gave way, a new solution was needed.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

The partners in the farm, Bill, Jean and Wesley Emmott, and Jay and Sara McLellan, opted to build a new freestall barn with slatted floors that seep to manure storage under the building.

“This works extremely well. We don’t have to have mechanical scrapers,” Bill Emmott says. “The less mechanics the better I say.”

The barn roof keeps additional rainwater from entering the manure storage, leading to less water to cart away when it comes time to empty the pit, which Emmott plans to do for the first time with the new storage as soon as the fields dry up.

He says it was only “a few dollars more” in terms of building costs, but having slatted floors did add an extra two months of construction. The project started on June 1, 2014, and cattle moved in the following February.


The previous parlour and freestall facility, located across the road from the new barn, was showing its age and was needing to be replaced in three to five years anyway. The need for new manure storage just pushed the new build up a couple of years, Emmott says.

In addition to replacing and expanding the farm’s manure storage, the new barn was built for growth with 90 stalls available and the possibility to expand to 130 stalls.

Currently, it holds 70 milking cows, which are milked by two automatic milking units in a free-flow traffic system.

The barn was “designed with cow comfort in mind,” Emmott says. Freestalls are 48 inches on centre with flexible stalling. The feedbunk is also lined with flexible stalls for better cow welfare.

soybean stubble beddingA mixture of soybean stubble, lime and water is used for bedding since sand is not a viable option with the barn's slatted floor and underground manure storage. Photo by Karen Lee.

Since sand wasn’t a good option with manure storage under the building, the farm uses a bedding mixture of soybean stubble, lime and water for its deep-bedded stalls.

“I believe deep bedding is something we need to do for cow comfort,” Emmott says.

The bedding mixture, which they saw in use in Europe, is mixed every 10 to 14 days in the TMR. The lime and water help to hold the soybean stubble together, and the lime is good for the cows’ feet. Emmott says they use a fine lime that is supposed to stay in suspension in the pit.

To help keep the floor clean, the farm uses an automatic slat scraper that roams the barn every hour to help push any manure through the floor into the storage below.

Even though a critical need for new manure storage pushed this project forward, a lot of thought made the facility one to care for the cows and manure for many years to come.