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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

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Building a Community, Building a Barn

by:
from issue:

One of the most striking aspects of this development is the strength and confidence that comes from this communal way of living. While it is impressive to build a barn in a day it seems even more impressive to imagine building four barns or six, and all the rest of the needs of a community. For these young Amish families the vision of a shared agricultural community is strong, and clear.

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.

Living With Horses

Living With Horses

by:
from issue:

The French breed of Ardennes is closer to what the breed has been in the past. The Ardennes has always been a stockier type of horse, rude as its environment. Today the breed has dramatically changed into a real heavy horse. If the Ardennes had an average weight between 550 and 700kg in the first part of the last century, the balance shows today 1000kg and more. Thus the difference between the Ardennes and their “big” sisters, the Brabants in Belgium, or the Trait du Nord in France, has gone.

Permanent Corncribs

A short piece on the construction of corncribs.

A Pony-Powered Garden Cart

A Pony-Powered Garden Cart

by:
from issue:

One of the challenges I constantly face using draft ponies is finding appropriately sized equipment. Mya is a Shetland-Welsh cross, standing at 11.2 hands. Most manure spreaders are big and heavy and require a team of horses. I needed something small and light and preferably wheeled to minimize impact to the land. My husband and I looked around our budding small farm for something light, wheeled, cheap, and available, and we quickly noticed our Vermont-style garden cart.

Ask A Teamster Neckyokes

Ask A Teamster: Neckyokes

I always chain or otherwise secure slip-on type neckyokes to the tongue so they don’t come off and cause an accident. Neckyokes unexpectedly coming off the tongue have caused countless problems, the likes of which have caused injuries, psychological damage, and even death to horses, and to people as well. Making sure the neckyoke is chained or otherwise secured to the tongue every time you hitch a team is a quick and easy way of eliminating a number of dangerous situations.

An Efficient, Economical Barn

by:
from issue:

A well thought out, functional barn should be the center piece of any farming endeavor, horse powered or fossil fueled, that involves livestock. After building and using two previous barns during our lifetimes, I think the one we now have has achieved a level of convenience, efficiency, and economy that is worth passing on.

SmP Seeder-Roller

Seeder-Roller – SmP Séi-Roll 1.0 for Horse Traction

Because it is a renewable and environmentally friendly energy source, horse traction is currently undergoing a renaissance in small scale agricultural holdings, winegrowing, market gardening and forestry. Within this context, implements for animal traction with mechanical drivetrain and direct draft are gaining importance. One of the goals of Schaff mat Päerd is to support this process by the development of new equipment and related studies and publications.

Barn Raising

Barn Raising

by:
from issue:

Here it was like a beehive with too many fuzzy cheeked teen-agers who couldn’t possibly be experienced enough to be of much help. But work was being accomplished; bents, end walls and partitions were being assembled like magic and raised into place with well-coordinated, effortless ease and precision. No tempers were flaring, no egomaniacs were trying to steal the show, and there was not the usual ten percent doing ninety percent of the work.

Champion No.4 Mower Reaper

The Champion No. 4 Combined Mower and Self-Raking Reaper

by:
from issue:

The project for the winter of 2010 was a Champion No. 4 mower made sometime around 1878 by the Champion Machine Works of Springfield, Ohio. The machine was designed primarily as a mower yet for an additional charge a reaping attachment could be added. The mower was in remarkably good condition for its age. After cleaning dirt from gears and oiling, we put the machine on blocks and found that none of the parts were frozen and everything moved.

Portable Poultry

Portable Poultry

An important feature of the range shelter described in this circular is that it is portable. Two men by inserting 2x4s through the holes located just below the roost supports and next to the center uprights can easily pick up and move it from one location to another. Frequent moving of the shelter prevents excessive accumulation of droppings in its vicinity which are a menace to the health of the birds. Better use will be made by the birds of the natural green feed produced on the range if the houses are moved often.

Rebuilding the New Idea Manure Spreader

Rebuilding the New Idea Manure Spreader

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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.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

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In parallel with making hay on the ground, nearly every year I have also made some hay on tripods. The attraction of this method is that it only needs one day of good weather to dry the grass sufficiently before it is put on the tripods, and then the hay takes very little harm no matter what the weather, usually coming out green, dry and smelling of hay two weeks later when it can be baled or stacked.

Delivery Wagon Plans

Delivery Wagon Plans

from issue:

While the low down delivery wagon is an improvement, the objectionable features are increased. But with all those objections the low down wagons increase every year. Their convenience outweighs all other objections. They are handy for country delivery and are fitted up inside to suit either grocers, bakers, butchers or milk delivery, or a combination of the four.

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.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

by:
from issue:

For the last ten years, I have made hay mostly with a single horse. This has not necessarily been out of choice, as at one time I had hoped to be farming on a larger scale with more horses. Anyway, it does little good to dwell on ‘what if ’. The reality is that I am able to make hay, and through making and modifying machinery, I probably have a better understanding of hay making and the mechanics of draught.

Farm Drum 27 Case 22 x 36 Threshing Machine

Farm Drum #27: Case 22 x 36 Threshing Machine

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Friend and Auctioneer Dennis Turmon has an upcoming auction featuring a Case Threshing machine, and we couldn’t wait when he invited us to take a look. On a blustery Central Oregon day (sorry about the wind noise), Lynn & Dennis take us on a guided tour of the Case 22×36 Thresher.

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