New hay smells good, oats, bran feed and molasses smell like bakery, but cow smell seeps into your clothes, hair, shoes and skin with a certain immediacy. You can’t just step into a barn and not smell like you stepped into a barn, especially not the ones with so many cows in them. Cows’ body heat and breath heat the barn with warm, moist heat, it sticks to you. A lot of people like the smell of horses, but cows, especially dairy cows…not so much.
When a barn doesn’t smell like cows, it’s been a long time since they were there. A long time.
When barns have been sitting empty for a long while they lose the cow manure smell and smell like dust, rodents and pigeons.
When the sun shines through the cracks, sparkly dust motes float in its beams. The sound of cooing and flapping wings above your head. Often the loft still has old hay in it. And if the roof is one of the round, ship bottom-like ones, mmm so marvelous. Usually the pulley system is still along the peak of the roof, the one that used to hoist the hay from the horse drawn wagons, because the barn is just that old. Now instead of loose hay, or small hay bales stored in the loft it comes in large cylinders which are often just stored outside. Although they are kind of cool looking in the field.