How to Start & Manage a Micro Dairy, Step 10: Choosing and Building the Structures


| 7/26/2013 4:33:00 PM


Tags: micro dairy, Steve Judge, Bob-White Systems, Vermont,

new barnThe type of barn you choose for your micro dairy depends on many factors — space, available storage, and most especially, climate. This last one is particularly important to Bob-White Systems, which is based in Vermont. You see, it gets cold in Vermont. One January morning in the early 1990s when I was milking 70 Jerseys, I woke up and stared at the outside thermometer in disbelief. It read 43 degrees below zero at 5:00 AM! In addition to the extreme cold, it gets muddy and snowy in Vermont. So, I built a small, 22' x 38' tie barn with four stalls. The actual stable area is 18' x 22' with additional space for a wash room, utility room, milk room, toilet room and a small entry. 

This type of barn has worked well for Bob-White Systems. Here are some of my tips and advice to keep in mind when building your own micro dairy barn:

• The size of the stable — the space where the cows are kept in the barn — is important. It should contain 1,000 cubic feet per cow for proper ventilation. The cows alone will be enough to heat the space during the coldest days. Cows' breath is moisture laden so I chose to install a good variable-speed, wall-mounted exhaust fan. The incoming air flows over the cows’ backs from head to tail. In the winter the fan is set to keep the temperature of the stable area between 45 and 50 degrees F.tie stalls

• Tie stalls are not as popular as they once were but I prefer them for cold climates for several reasons. If the stalls are configured properly, it is much easier to keep the cows clean and control their manure. I clean my gutter by hand with a shovel and wheelbarrow.  Even during the winter, when the cows are inside the barn more than not, cleaning the gutter takes less than ten minutes per day and it is much cheaper than going to a gym for a workout. During the summer, when the cows are outside most of the time, I clean the gutter once per week at the most — if that. I dump the manure on a concrete pad outside the barn against a concrete backstop where I scoop it up with my tractor. From there, I take it to my manure pile for storage and composting.

• It is also much easier to control the cows' feed and reduce waste in a tie barn. It is important to set up the mangers and stalls properly. The stall dividers should extend into the manger to keep the cows from stealing from one another and from getting down on their front knees to stretch for food. The manger should have an old-fashioned backstop to keep the cows from pushing the feed out of their reach.  Mangers were usually constructed with backstops before motorized feed carts became common. Since all feeding is done by hand in a micro dairy — or should be — mangers can and should have backstops. 

• Tread length, the surface that the cows stand on while they are in their stalls, is also a very important consideration. You're not being kind to your cows by making the treads a little longer than they should be. Shorter treads mean cleaner cows. I recommend a tread length of 5' to 5' 4" for Jerseys. Your gutter should be 16" wide and at least 10" deep.




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