Which came first, the milk cow or the milking stanchion?

We first discovered fresh raw milk about five years ago. I had been researching sustainable land management and pasture improvement, which led me to different farmers like Joel Salatin, Allan Nation & Tim Young. Through their websites, blogs, books, and periodicals I was also exposed to such organizations as; Weston A. Price Foundation, Rodale Institute, Eat Wild, and Local Harvest. After reading on the WAPF website about RAW (REAL) milk, I decided I had to get some. In Georgia, it is illegal to sell raw  milk unless it’s labeled as pet food, which is so idiotic because who is spending $6 -$10 a gallon for milk to feed to their cats or dogs? Anyhow, I followed a link to realmilk.com and found a farm near us that sold fresh milk in full unadulterated, unpasteurized, unhomogenized goodness. I couldn’t wait to take my first gulp. When we got home, I promptly took off the cap and poured a glass, without shaking. What I had was a glass full of cream and it was like drinking liquid whipped cream (actually that’s what it is). I hadn’t considered that the commercial milk sold in grocery stores has been beaten into submission by homogenization to evenly distribute the fat throughout the milk. I’m sure there is some other reason, like forcing people to have to by cream separately, perhaps one of you good people in the know can share your knowledge on this matter. Now if there is anyone who is reading this and finds themselves climbing up on a rickety soapbox to defend the horrid practice of pasteurization, I suggest you study the two websites I provided links to and get educated. Chances are, most of you reading this are open minded, capable of thinking for yourself and willing to appreciate facts supported real life experiences. Anyway, on with my tale.

People once had an intimate relationship with their milk cow. They could just walk to her in the field and help themselves.

One of the attractions for me to farming, was the prospect of keeping my very own milk cow. Now we have two who are due to calve in just a few weeks. One invaluable tool that most any dairy farmer has is a milking stanchion. The purpose of the stanchion is to help hold the cow in one spot while she is milked. It’s also invaluable in training a heifer who is milked for the first time. Even though our farm was once a dairy farm, no cow has been milked here in possibly 30 – 40 years so any stanchions, headgates, and such are long ago rotted away. Building a milking stanchion was a priority so I got my self busy. I talked with my friends, the Hammonds, over at My Dad & Me Family Farm, looked at their stanchions, made some notes (which got washed), checked out some blogs, called David and Daniel Hammond a couple of times to ask their dimensions again, paced around the barn, scratched my head, gathered some materials, then plowed ahead.

Because I have one young cow who was never handled until I got her, I wanted the stanchion to be strong enough to withstand any wild activities but still versatile enough to be easy to use. My material list was fairly simple; four 4″x6″x8′ posts, four 16′ long 2″x6″ boards, 6 sacks of concrete mix, screws, lag bolts, and carriage bolts. Since our cows are Dexters, our stanchion could be a good bit smaller than what most farms use. I planned on setting the posts 28″ wide and 54″ long.

The first thing I did was to find a fifteen year old boy to do a share of the digging.

We had to start each hole with a digging bar because this old clay was hard as stone. Once the top 4 – 6″ was loosened, the clamshell posthole diggers did fine.

The digging bar.

I set each post to around 24″ deep.

As I set each post, I check to see that it’s plumb.

As I set the second, third, and fourth posts, I measure to ensure everything is more or less square and even.

All posts get a good surround of concrete, the first hole took barely one bag, the third and fourth took almost two each. (I had to find some wiggle room to keep things square.)

 Next, I fired up my chainsaw and mortised out holes for the rails. This is probably the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done with a chainsaw. DO NOT attempt this unless you are very experienced, have a very sharp chain, and You aren’t so comfortable that you’re complacent. Complacency kills. Note the trail of the chainsaw traveling up the post.

I did it this way so that I could remove the rails for easier access to the cow, and to make releasing the cow a little easier.

Here is Carla giving the stanchion a test run.

For the rails, I just set the 2×6 boards through the slots and then cut them to the size I wanted. I had a lot of scrap boards from other projects that I used to frame in the top and the supports for the head gate.

Next I used carriage bolts to secure the bottom of the 4×4’s to the bottom, and then we drilled a series of holes so the head gate could be adjusted to trap the cows head. Control their head, you can pretty do whatever needs doing.

As you can see, it works! For my first stanchion, I’m quite pleased with myself.

Now we just need some calves on the ground to get the milk flowing!

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for the tips and instructions! A milking parlor is Number One on my Honey-do List! 🙂 We’ll stay tuned to hear how the cows like it!

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  2. Oh I am so jealous. I am currently shopping for land, and I’m cramped up in an apartment while I wait. I can’t wait to get a milk cow! Don’t you find that once you drink a glass of fresh raw milk, you can never drink the stuff from the store again? I know thats how it is for me, the store bought milk tastes like water with a slight chemical aftertaste. Yuk! I guess I am now officially a milk snob 🙂

    I have a ton of raw milk recipes on my blog btw
    http://www.arealfoodlover.com

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  3. Posted by Amy on March 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    This totally made me think of a joke that you can share with your children!

    Question: Why does a milk stool only have three legs?
    Answer: Because the cow has the udder!

    Corny, I know, but alas, I can’t help it! I’m loving learning more about your farm here and on Facebook!

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  4. I’m in the process of building a mobile shed/milking parlor right now but dang it’s hot out. I’ll share when I’m done.

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