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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

The Milk and Human Kindness: Plans for an Old Style Wooden Stanchion Floor

by Suzanne Lupien of Thetford Center, VT

A sunny dry milking stall is enormously important for you and your cow, and constructing an old fashioned wooden floor, manger and stanchion frame needn’t be expensive, difficult or very time consuming. I much prefer wood to concrete, and so does your cow. Standing on concrete is one of the numerous hardships of being a modern cow. A system made entirely of wood, preferably wood from your own farm, provides gentle comfort for your cow, in stark contrast to the clanging of steel and the harshness of concrete. So here you have a simple outline of how to build your own, dimensions for a jersey or other small cow. Sturdy, simple, practical plans.

The basic needs that we are addressing here are as follows: To create a sunny, airy (not drafty), dry, convenient, accessible place to bring in our cow or cows, with or without calves, to be comfortably and easily secured for milking and other purposes such as vet checks, AI breeding, etc. where both you and your cow feel secure and content. A place that is functional, clean, warm and inviting in every way. There will be dozens of instances beyond the daily milking where the “tie-up” will be extremely useful. Indeed, I’ve wondered time and again what I would do without it.

I will describe to you the tie-up at my old farm which was perfect in every way from my point of view, summer and winter. Then I will focus on the construction plan. From this you will be able to build your own. Finally I’ll address stanchion hardware.

The eight cow tie-up at Goodrich 4 Corners was built into the east side of the early (1789) English barn hewn from hemlock and chestnut, and set on the customary dry stone foundation. Because it had to be built into the existing timber frame with its own proportional and structural constraints, the ceiling height is rather low, doorways quite low, requiring most adults to bend when crossing the threshold.

It was a long rectangular room running the length of the gable end of the barn which stood very close to the road. It was probably built around 1920, by a man skillfull with chisel and saw, and it was sheathed in tongue and groove pine, planed, the trim and detail better than many modern house interiors. Windows all along the outside wall, waist high, and white washed floor to ceiling, this white wash being renewed semi-annually in accordance with the law for cow houses in former times. It was thus, bathed in light. For the first four years I had that farm, Clayton Warner, the last whitewash man used to come and spray the barn for me – we’d spend a good two days sweeping and scraping it ready – he’d come over the mountain through Middlebury Gap, and he wasn’t hurrying, had an old Chevy truck with a tank of white wash on the back.

The cows stood with their heads toward the drive floor for feeding purposes; hence their backsides got the sun streaming in the windows by seven in the morning, a very good thing on frigid winter days. Each cow had her own manger, with partitions separating one manger from the next. This made for peaceful and equitable feeding. There were four tongue and groove bead board shutters running the full length of the drive floor side, hung horizontally, hinged at the bottom, folding down, waist height, to be opened for feeding and fresh air. Closed in cold weather, eight cows would raise the temperature considerably. There was an ingenious fresh air system built into the outside wall which brought fresh air from outside and sent the stale air up and out through a wooden shaft. This contributed greatly to the cow’s well-being. Being cooped up like that was unavoidable in a harsh New England winter in former times, and that could be deadly for a cow’s respiratory system.

The deck upon which the cows stood was planked with heavy hemlock planking, a good two inches or better, the planks laid in the direction the deck would be scraped clean, and this deck was pitched very slightly toward the wooden gutter behind the cows, and this gutter was also pitched just a little so the urine would collect down at the end where presumably the wheelbarrow stood at cleaning time. Behind the gutter was a wooden walkway, boarded in the direction of cow travel, lengthways which again made for easy cleaning.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

The doorway in this photograph leads down a wooden ramp into the barn yard. Another door, just beyond the stanchion floor, to the right, leads to the drive floor with the loose hay mow just on the other side of the drive floor, and comprising the main part of the barn. Above the cows was a large storage area, either for feed or equipment in winter. The doorway to the drive floor was nice and wide, so it was very convenient to let the cows pass through there on their way to pasture after milking.

Each morning after milking the cows would go out, the gutter would be shoveled out and the stale bedding would be scraped into the gutter to absorb any residual liquid. The gutter would then be emptied a second time, if necessary. Mangers would be swept clean, the deck re-bedded with pine sawdust, all ready for the next milking. If barn chores were completed early enough, the morning sun streaming in from the windows would do its part to sweeten up the place.

The deck may seem short to you but it must be short enough just, so the manure will land in the gutter and not on the deck. When considering how a cow gathers her legs under her when she lies down, and the way her hind end hangs down a bit, the trim dimensions of the deck start to make sense. So for each cow allow 58” long and 4 feet wide.

To build a stanchion floor like this you need a source of rough sawn lumber. Good quality full 2” hemlock would be my choice, here in New England. Choose for strength and durability.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

A few hints:

A) If you are building on concrete you can use the concrete for the gutter. You will of course need concrete nails or other appropriate fasteners. If you are building on a good wood floor you can do the same as far as the gutter is concerned. However if the boarding is running opposite to the length of the gutter, you will want to lay a good one inch board inside the gutter so you won’t be tearing up the floor running your shovel across the grain of the wood. If you are building on a dirt floor you need to frame in the gutter as well as the cow walkway and stanchion floor on top of that, to get your stanchion floor elevation.

B) Leave no overhang at the gutter edge of the cow floor as the cows will eventually split and ruin it with their sharp hooves. Keep it flush.

C) Use 2” x 6” or 2” x 8” for the cow floor and the cleats or stringer underneath.

D) Remember that stacked 2×4’s are stronger structurally than toe-nailed 4×4’s. So build your vertical posts in place, one stick at a time. Do the same with the top horizontal member. Spike the first 2×4″ down into the vertical posts, then the second one.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

E) Keep the stanchion floor understructure separate from the manger structure so that 20 or 30 years from now when you have to replace a rotten deck stringer you don’t have to tear up the manger.

F) Keep your deck planks 4” shy of the front edge of the front stringer for the same reason – so that you can replace a rotten or broken floor plank without interfering with the structure of the vertical stanchion framework.

G) Shim under your stringers to get your slight floor pitch.

H) Cut 2×4’s to fit tightly between the posts. This member takes a real beating anchoring the bottom of the stanchion and will need to be replaced periodically.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

Stanchions

Old stanchions come in many different types: wood, metal, and wood and metal. I love the old wooden ones with a spring and if you are lucky enough to find old wooden stanchions just make sure they lock securely and that the wood is in good shape, especially the short cross member at the bottom where the short chain attaches to the floor. You must have sturdy and functional stanchions. Do not cobble something together. I promise you you’ll have regrets. The old wooden ones have a recess bored out of them with a hole drilled through the wood crossways over the hole so you can wiggle the chain in there and bolt it securely in place. Many old stanchions I’ve seen leave that bolt hole torn out.

The wooden checked metal stanchions are probably the most plentiful, and are really nice. There’s wood rubbing against the cow’s neck, not steel, they lock shut very securely and are easy to open and shut. They are also adjustable in their width, both top and bottom. They come with a sturdy mounting bracket on the top which bolts conveniently to the cross beam. I think you can still obtain the bracket for attaching the bottom chain to the floor cross beam – it’s just a somewhat sturdy steel holder which is lag screwed to the floor. Use the heaviest and longest lag bolts you can. Slip the chain through the holder and bolt it down. You neither want it to break free nor do you want your cow to swallow a lag screw.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

The Manger

The manger needs to be wide enough to hold feed, and wide enough for the cow’s head to move forward when she is getting up: at least 2’ deep at the bottom, and if it’s slant-sided, then 3’ at the top — sturdy construction. No protruding nails or other rough bits. Keep the manger clean, and free from wet material which would go moldy. This is very important for your cow’s health.

Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities

Illusive Herd of Threshasaurus Sighted

Illusive Herd of Threshasaurus Sighted

by:
from issue:

The Threshasaurus’s large size and curious nature may appear antagonistic, but they are mostly curious and largely non-threatening. Be careful when approaching, however, as they do have sharp teeth and many fast moving, exposed pulleys.

Fjordworks Cultural Evolution Part 2

Fjordworks: Cultural Evolution Part 2

For more than ten years we cultivated our market garden with the walk-behind cultivator. This past season we made the transition to the riding cultivator. I really enjoyed using this amazing implement. Our current team of Fjords are now mature animals (14 & 18 years old) and have been working together for 11 years, so they were certainly ready to work quietly and walk slowly enough to be effective with this precision tool.

Fjordworks Horse Powered Potatoes Part 2

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes Part Two

These types of team implements for digging potatoes were the first big innovation in horse powered potato harvesting in the mid-19th century. Prior to the horse drawn digger the limitation on how many potatoes a farmer could plant was how many the farm crew could dig by hand. The basic design of these early diggers works so well that new models of this type of digger are once again being manufactured by contemporary horse drawn equipment suppliers.

LittleField Notes Spring 2013

LittleField Notes: Spring 2013

by:
from issue:

If we agree that quality of plowing is subject to different criteria at different times and in different fields, then perhaps the most important thing to consider is control. How effectively can I plow to attain my desired field condition based on my choice of plow? The old time plow manufacturers understood this. At one time there were specific moldboards available for every imaginable soil type and condition.

The Farm & Bakery Wagon

The Farm & Bakery Wagon

by:
from issue:

The first step was to decide on an appropriate chassis, or “running gear.” Eventually I chose to go with the real deal, a wooden-wheeled gear with leaf springs rather than pneumatic tires. Wooden wheels last forever with care and are functional and look the part. I bought an antique delivery wagon that had been left outdoors as an ornament. I was able to reuse some of the wheels and wooden parts of the running gear.

Cultivating Questions The Cost of Working Horses

Cultivating Questions: The Cost of Working Horses

Thanks to the many resources available in the new millennium, it is relatively easy for new and transitioning farmers to learn the business of small-scale organic vegetable production. Economic models of horse-powered market gardens, however, are still few and far between. To fill that information hole, I asked three experienced farmers to join me in tracking work horse hours, expenses and labor over a two-year period and to share the results in the Small Farmer’s Journal.

Work Bridle Styles

Work Bridle Styles

Here are fourteen work bridle styles taken from a 1920’s era harness catalog. Regional variants came with different names and configurations, so much so that we have elected to identify these images by letter instead of name so you may reference these pictures directly when ordering harness or talking about repairs or fit concerns with trainers or harness makers. In one region some were know as pigeon wing and others referred to them as batwing or mule bridles.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

The Milk and Human Kindness: Plans for an Old Style Wooden Stanchion Floor

by:
from issue:

The basic needs that we are addressing here are as follows: To create a sunny, airy (not drafty), dry, convenient, accessible place to bring in our cow or cows, with or without calves, to be comfortably and easily secured for milking and other purposes such as vet checks, AI breeding, etc. where both you and your cow feel secure and content. A place that is functional, clean, warm and inviting in every way.

Plowing with the Single Horse

Plowing with the Single Horse

All other aspects being equal, the primary difference in plowing, comfortably, with a single horse is that the animal walks on unplowed ground immediately adjacent to the previous furrow, rather than in the furrow. This will cause the point of draft at the shoulder to be somewhat higher and will dictate hitching longer and/or higher than with the animal walking down 5 to 8 inches lower in the furrow.

Rebuilding the New Idea Manure Spreader

Rebuilding the New Idea Manure Spreader

by:
from issue:

To select a Model 8, 10 or 10A for rebuilding, if you have a few to choose from – All New Idea spreaders have the raised words New Idea, Coldwater, Ohio on the bull gear. The No. 8 is being rebuilt in many areas due to the shortage of 10A’s and because they are still very popular. The 10A is the most recent of the spreaders and all three can be rebuilt. The 10 and 10A are the most popular for rebuilding as parts are available for putting these spreaders back into use.

Sleds

Sleds

by:
from issue:

The remainder of this section on Agricultural Implements is about homemade equipment for use with draft animals. These implements are all proven and serviceable. They are easily worked by a single animal weighing 1,000 pounds, and probably a good deal less. Sleds rate high on our homestead. They can be pulled over rough terrain. They do well traversing slopes. Being low to the ground, they are very easy to load up.

John Deere Corn Binder

John Deere Corn Binder

from issue:

The John Deere Corn Binder is set up as illustrated in the following pages. The darkened portions of the progressive illustrations show clearly the parts to be assembled and attached in proper order. Where the instructions or the connecting points are numbered, follow closely the order in which they are numbered and lettered. Arrows are also used to point out important adjustments or parts that need special attention in setting up.

Farm Drum 26 John Deere Grain Binders

Farm Drum #26: John Deere Grain Binders

by:

Friend and Auctioneer Dennis Turmon told us about a couple of John Deere Grain Binders he has in an upcoming auction, and we couldn’t wait to take a look. On a blustery Central Oregon day (sorry about the wind noise), Lynn takes us on a guided tour of the PTO and Ground-Drive versions of this important implement.

Horsedrawn Dempster Well Driller

Horsedrawn Dempster Well Driller

by:
from issue:

The driller is like an auger type post hole digger powered by one horse walking around the machine. The gear is stationary. The platform and everything on it (including operators) goes around and around with the horse. The auger shaft is clamped to the platform so the auger makes one revolution as the horse makes one revolution. The gears operate a winch. It appears the winch can also be cranked by hand.

New Horse-drawn Side Delivery Rakes from Europe

New Horse-drawn Side Delivery Rakes from Europe

In Northern Italy the two agricultural machinery manufacturers MAINARDI A. s.r.l. and REPOSSI Macchine Agricole s.r.l. produce a vast range of haying equipment with pto and hydraulic drive, also hay rakes with mechanical drive by the rear wheels. The majority of the sold machines of this type are currently used with small tractors and motor cultivators. The technology of these rakes is based on implements which were developed in the 1940s, when animal traction still played an important role in Italy’s agriculture.

Amber Baker Letter

Hello from Michigan!

Dear Lynn Miller and staff, Hello from Michigan! We have only just started to read your Journal, and have really enjoyed it. First off, thank you for your publication. It is always a special occasion when the journal arrives, my favorite part would have to be when the seasoned farmer imparts some knowledge. Secondly, my dad is trying to figure out how to make a PTO forecart, but we are having difficulty finding information on people who have made their own, or what dimensions to make the cart out of and such.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT