As science and agriculture merged in the late-19th and early 20th centuries, methods for improving quality and increasing production on dairy farms were developed. Although the population was growing, the number of dairy producers was decreasing, so that those who continued in this business found increasing demand for their products. The result was a change in the way traditional dairy farms were arranged.
Early barnyards featured a barn, a separate milking parlor, and a loafing shed. The Improvement Era barn actually combined all of these functions under a single roof. Typically larger than earlier barns, Improvement Era barns commonly have a gambrel roof (Gothic arch and truncated gable roofs can also be found) to allow for greater hay storage on the second floor. A large second-story opening with a projecting hoist allows for the use of a Jackson Fork with which to lift hay to this level.
The main floor traditionally features an aisle down the center or down each side on a concrete floor, with gutters used to wash waste away. Rows of feeding troughs and metal stanchions used for securing the cows for milking are located along these aisles. This area might be located on one end or might take up the entire main floor space, depending on the size of the barn.
On larger barns, loafing and calving pens might be located at one end. Typically on larger barns, a small perpendicular addition on the side of the barn houses the milk tank and cooling equipment.
The barns can be constructed of board-and-batten siding, plank siding, drop siding, concrete block, or even sawed logs.