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Rustic and Handmade – Refine Your Raw Milk Dairy Milking Stanchion

stanchion blog post

Today I am showing off my rustic, homemade milking stanchion due to popular request!!

I’ve learned in this business of raw milk micro-dairying that you don’t want to invest a lot of extra money building a fancy infrastructure if you don’t have to.  Keep to the basics, use leftovers around the farm to build, trade for labor, your money will be needed in many other areas (like feed, mainly!!).

Also, I explain why I use rubber mats vs. bringing concrete into the barn.

Watch the video, and then let’s continue the conversation below in the comments… tell me what you take away from seeing my stanchion, and what, if anything you will change/add?  More questions? Ask them in the comment section, too, and let’s talk!

Thank you, as always, for reading, watching, and adding your genius to the conversation!

Here are the measurements for the stanchion:
Height – 18″ off ground
entrance ramp – 6’6″ long
flat part where we milk them — 6’6″ long
top of exit ramp which is flat — 4′
exit ramp 5’3″

Here’s to your raw milk super-stardom! Share this post with those you know milking cows or even just thinking about it in the future.

xox

Charlotte

 

 

{ 54 comments… add one }
  • April McGinley September 24, 2013, 4:22 pm

    Hi Charlotte,
    The swinging gate with chain that holds the cow from moving side to side is a brilliant idea.

    Thanks, April

    • Charlotte Smith September 24, 2013, 4:38 pm

      Thank you April!! It was a genius fix for lack of foresight. However, if I ever want to milk guernseys or brown swiss I might need it that big!

  • Shawna Bar September 24, 2013, 4:26 pm

    Thank you Charlotte! I love seeing innovations on the small farm. Our stanchion is currently ground level, and we’d love to see it elevated. One wild idea we’ve tossed around is to build a platform for the cow to stand on, and attach the platform to one of those pallet lifts. Once the cow enters the stanchion, we’d just lift her up…kind of like a dentist chair. 🙂 Crazy? Probably!

    • Charlotte Smith September 24, 2013, 4:36 pm

      Ha! Sounds like a patentable idea!! Let me know if you get it working. A hyster, perhaps? Met one of your customers this weekend at WAP conference 🙂

      See you soon!!

      • Dennis Van Swol April 2, 2014, 4:16 am

        There’s already a similar product available from Harbor Freight Tools (and probably many others). It’s a motorcycle mechanics lift (Item #68892). While I haven’t actually checked one out for size and it only has 1000# capacity, it’s an interesting concept as my old milk barn already has a concrete floor. You’d still need some stanchions/railings to keep you and your cow safe.

  • Tina Sykes September 24, 2013, 5:06 pm

    Thank you Charlotte for sharing your info with us beginners. Please keep up the good work. Is the mat on the ramp up to code with the inspector? I like the idea just curious.

    • Charlotte Smith September 26, 2013, 5:52 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Tina. Since we are in Oregon we are not inspected and totally unregulated. I’m kinda doubtful it would meet Washington grade A code. But check it out – I don’t know for sure.

      Good luck!! Thanks for tuning in 🙂

  • Naomi Fournier September 24, 2013, 7:59 pm

    Thanks for the video, Charlotte. I milk our family’s cows by hand, in the barn with clean straw on the floor or (my favourite) right out on pasture (yes, we’ve trained them to stand still without tying while we are milking). We do feed grain as well, but after I’m finished milking. I would like to build a new barn one of these years, and will be making a designated milking area when I do.

    Local dairy farmers highly recommend against any right angles in the milking parlour, as cows can blow out their shoulders and knees over time from navigating the turn, so it would be better if the cow walked straight out of the stanchion instead. I like the thought of installing rubber mats though, especially if the stanchion is built out of concrete.

    • Charlotte Smith September 24, 2013, 8:02 pm

      Thanks for commenting! You’re right about the right hand turns. We have been safe so far. We couldn’t build any further out front or I would have preferred a straight exit, too.

      Ah, what a dream to start from scratch building a new barn and milking area and design it perfectly!!

      xx
      Charlotte

  • Tom Ramlee September 25, 2013, 3:46 am

    Good Evening Charlotte
    As always, a very interesting vid. The comments from fellow dairy folks are also valuable. I can especially identify with the desire to build the “perfect” barn from scratch but really doubt that there is such a thing.

    Your simplicity and functionality are easy to replicate and make a small operation possible with mortgaging the farm.

    I know that you have a waiting list for milk but have you found any consumers asking for a more typical dairy barn? Do your numbers help overcome any resistance?

    • Charlotte Smith September 25, 2013, 3:54 pm

      Thanks – Tom! Good to hear from you.

      I find – and I think you will find, too – that people in Oregon are so grateful to find a source of safe, nutritious raw milk they never ask for anything other than what we have as far as a setup. As Naomi commented above, you could be milking by hand out in the pasture and customers – happy to have found a source of raw milk – will love it.

      Also, by numbers… do you mean my test results and bacteria counts? I must say, I’ve never experienced resistance – people call every day to get raw milk because they want it. If they are resistant they aren’t calling me.

      The only doubters I come across are perhaps the spouses left at home, or the mother-in-law wondering why the mother is feeding her grandchildren raw milk. I encourage them all to come on the tour of our farm and hear about our safety precautions. 100% of doubters leave the tour with me and they fully satisfied.

      As you’re planning your dairy, I think if it’s functional and your test results prove your procedures work, then you’ll find the only people that contact you are those grateful to have found you. Very little resistance among those looking to heal their families.

      Keep in touch –
      Charlotte

  • David Field September 25, 2013, 4:24 am

    We were very strict about not feeding any grain, and many of our customers were picky about it as well. For milking, we fed a 50/50 mix of alfalfa pellets and beet pulp pellets soaked for about 10 minutes in warm water. All our girls quickly fell in love with it.

    Moved from WA to OR this summer, and really looking forward to starting a microdairy (legally this time!) again when I find the right piece of land.

    • Nicole October 23, 2013, 10:39 pm

      David, how odd that your customers wouldn’t want the cows to eat any grain, but wouldn’t care about the GMO aspect of a highly processed by-product like beet pulp. Even non-GMO alfalfa is getting hard to find…let alone beet pulp.

  • Charlotte Smith September 25, 2013, 3:56 pm

    Thanks, David – good options to offer instead of grain. Best of luck milking again – keep in touch! Let me know where you are.
    —Charlotte

  • Vivian Heyob September 26, 2013, 2:43 pm

    I really like finding useful info on the internet, makes the cable bill seem worth while. I milk goats and not cows but I have a small place and I still have raw milk for cheese, yogurt and kefir, as well as milk to drink. I trade for cream as to be able to make butter. Getting enough cream is hard from a goat. Lol I found an article on a goat stanchion and my very talented husband took that idea and made me mine with some changes he thought would work better for us and the room we had in the old tack room. I also feed grain when I milk as it makes all involved happier. I am concerned, of course, about GMO grains, so make sure the “girlies” get to forage through the day and have plenty of good hay. I use an 18% sweet feed, mixed at our local mill as well as sunflower seed and beet pulp. Now here is my question, isn’t beet pulp made from sugar beets and isn’t that a GMO now as well or have I been ms-reading? I cannot afford to go totally non GMO in grain as the cost is killer here. I try to not use much. Any thoughts on this? Thanks for the well put together video. I may get a cow someday as well, just a small one. 🙂

    • Charlotte Smith September 26, 2013, 2:59 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment and especially that you find this post useful 🙂

      You live an idyllic life, milking animals and trading for cream/butter. If you ever get that cow someday – even a small one – you’ll be amazed at the production – you’ll be swimming in cream!!

      95% of all sugar beets in the US are Genetically Modified, therefore, the gentleman who’s feeding the beet pulp might find that it is GMO. You must do very in-depth research – of course we don’t have mandatory labeling so it can be very deceiving and you think since it’s not on the label it’s not in the feed.

      But, there’s a trade-off with farm animals. Sometimes one can’t afford to be all GMO free and still keep the cows healthy, so then the consumer has to make the choice – – seek out the raw milk, all organic – (very difficult/next to impossible in most places to find) or experience the health benefits of raw milk from cows fed as well as the farmer can possibly afford, and perhaps a little GMO feed.

      Hopefully that heavy decision making gets us all riled up so we demand more labeling and disclosure and at the same time increase the demand for products grown without GMO’s! Gets me fired up just writing this!! Pretty soon GMO-free won’t be an option if we keep accepting what’s out there.

      xx
      Charlotte

  • Shar September 26, 2013, 3:47 pm

    Curious….your milking stanchion was so clean….just for the video, or have you trained your girls to poo outdoors? This may be a crazy farm question, and I have been around farms for several years, and learning, so not absolutely out of touch. Here is the point of the question. Dogs would poo in the house, if we didn’t train them, and I have a house mini lop bunny, who was trained to use a portable potty, no litter in the bottom, but cloths over a screen…works marvelously, but many are surprised they can be trained like this.
    Why not diary smart girl cows?
    I am hoping you have already done this and will share the secrets!
    Thanks for the great video. I love your personalized parlor!

    • Charlotte Smith September 26, 2013, 5:49 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Shar!

      Our cows rarely poo in the stanchion. The first week they arrive on our farm they usually do a few times out of nerves of being crowded in a new stanchion, new people, etc.

      After about a week, though we notice they are settled into the routine and when we call them in for milking they usually do their business outside on their way in or hold it til afterwards. Maybe they’re “trained” but I think they are just so un-stressed around here and live such a relaxed, cushy lifestyle that they know milking time is for just that, and it feels natural to them to not defacate during milking.

      Once they are settled in, however, if something surprises them they sure will poo in the stanchion again – a new person walking through or if we bring them in other than milking time for some vet work or something, or perhaps there’s a surprise sound – hammering, slamming a door, although we try to keep milking time undisturbed.

      Also, we learn to watch for signs – for instance, if on the way in the start to lift their tail we will stop and let them do it outside. Sometimes they are all done being milked in the stanchion and I see their tail start to lift to defacate I will pat them on the rump and hurry them outside and they hold it. So maybe they’re smarter than I think and they’re trained!

      It sure makes cleanup easier to have them do their business outside!!

      xx
      Charlotte

    • Sam October 7, 2014, 7:41 pm

      Our Jersey, Lucy, will mess if she doesn’t like her hay we give hie while being milked. I wish we had a way to train her.

  • kate haas September 27, 2013, 12:19 pm

    Hey there Charlotte, another very helpful video. Thank you! And now I’ve got a question for you. Can you speak to why it is it preferable for a cow to not back up and to rather walk straight through the stanchion? And Naomi recommends avoiding any right angles for fear of too much stress on the cow making the turns each day.

    How important is this? I have my cows backing out of their stanchions each morning, is this really a concern? I can change this and give them a walk through setup but it would mean just milking one cow at a time. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Thanks again Charlotte for generously sharing your stanchion setup!

    • Charlotte Smith September 27, 2013, 9:45 pm

      Thanks, Kate!

      Cows don’t have a preference for backing up, mainly because they are “prey” animals and it’s not natural for them, they don’t feel safe doing so. But it’s not the end of the world if your cow has to back up.

      Since I was building my stanchion from scratch I had the opportunity to choose to have it be a pass-through so I did, just to make them more comfortable. In doing so, I had a right-hand turn. We all do what we can!

      If what you’re doing is working for you, keep it up.

      Will I see you in Chico in 2 weeks?

      xx
      Charlotte

  • Marlene Eckel November 21, 2013, 3:36 pm

    Thanks for posting this Charlotte! I have a few beautiful Guernseys that I milk in my backyard. My husband has mentioned building me a stanchion so it’s nice to see what’s working for you. Thanks for the taking your time to help the newbee’s figure out what would be best. Now let’s see how long it takes the hubby to go from the idea to actually building it. Oye lol!

    • Charlotte Smith November 21, 2013, 4:00 pm

      Thanks, Marlene – what a cute email address you have 🙂

      I received a call last week from a husband in Georgia whose wife showed him the video and asked him to build it for her! He was calling for specific dimensions so he can copy some of the ideas for her.

      Thanks for your encouragement!!

      xx
      Charlotte

  • charles Baldwin December 24, 2013, 8:56 pm

    Very Good information enjoyed video I just purchased two Jersey Heifers for my own all this new to me. I hope to start milking by March as the oldest heifer is due to calf soon. I need alot more help tho Thanks, again

  • Laurinda Nussbaum January 6, 2014, 6:22 pm

    Can you tell me what the length is, on the platform, where the cow stands? Thanks so much!! I LOVE this stanchion!

  • Dusty January 20, 2014, 10:02 pm

    Hi Charlotte; another great helpful video in fact we liked it so much we are going to build one of these. Do you have a materials breakdown or better yet dimensions? We milk large Jersey’s, about 1100 lbs. One has a swinging udder, and our inside milking parlor is only 16 foot. Was wondering if we could forgo the head catch for just a platform to put the grain in front of the cow, perhaps a bar to keep them from coming OVER the side boards? IS an 8 foot ramp and an 8 foot stand long enough? we will then put in a door to the outside “catch pen” and a ramp that leads out of the milk parlor straight ahead, can you picture it? Our parlor is 16ft by 16 foot, and our holding pen is 20 foot wide. Can you tell me if you had a choice, how wide would the milk stand need to be? Two feet wide enough? Would be a bit of a squeeze for a pregnant cow; but then we could forgo the swing gate?
    Thank you so much for these videos, our entire nonprofit milk club watches them and bring ideas to the table.

    • Charlotte Smith January 23, 2014, 11:07 pm

      Dusty, thanks so much for writing! I think a 2′ wide stanchion might be too narrow for large jerseys. You wouldn’t need the swing gate. But a big pregnant jersey could be too squeezed. But probably 2.5 feet would work??

      I’m so glad your club finds value in these!! Are they all signed up on rawmilkpro.com to get them automatically? Would love for them to get into the discussion and share their questions and experience!! Where are you guys?

      I’m sorry I don’t have dimensions or a materials breakdown. We just built it from scratch.

      • Dusty October 31, 2014, 12:48 pm

        Charlotte; WE built the stanchion with one brilliant addition by my son. The cows walk up dirt steps, no slippage after that. We put a stall mat in the stanchion, easy to clean. The head catch idea we fixed by making it a gate like yours, and then building a sliding door in the wall straight ahead of it. The cows walk straight out. This makes it very easy to train our heifers as well; as they can see the ramp leads out to the open, and they are used to walking on dirt so it was no problem to train them.

  • Linda Lemco March 25, 2014, 3:23 am

    Thanks.

  • kate haas May 23, 2014, 1:27 pm

    Hey Charlotte, we are going to make some improvements in our milk parlor soon. Could you tell me the length of your ramp entrance? And I couldn’t tell from your video how your head gate latches, do you have a picture of that you wouldn’t mind adding to this stream? I am hoping to make my stanchion work for my small jerseys and my alpine goats so I have a bit of a challenge doing so but think your setup is the way for us to go.

    Thanks Charlotte! –Kate

  • Katie Marsh July 1, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Hi Charlotte,
    Thank you for your video. I was wondering if there is any danger of getting kicked in the head by sitting right next to her feet with no side board at the bottom. We just bought our first dairy cow (1/2 hereford and 1/2 jersey) and she has a 2-week old baby red bull. We’ve never milked a cow before and she has never been milked. She is very unsure of us, too. So we’re going to build one of these this weekend before attempting to milk her. Does the part that holds their head in the front keep them from kicking somehow or does it have a different purpose? Also, I read the thread about GMO and beet pulp. What GMO-free grain do you feed your dairy cows? Thank you so much!
    Katie

  • Dusty October 31, 2014, 12:53 pm

    We solved this problem using a soft rope to tie the hind leg back closest to our head! It shows clearly on our video how to tie the leg back on a new cow.
    about two minutes into the video she places the rope and shows how to tie it off

  • Greg January 13, 2015, 10:32 pm

    I’m new at having cows… going on a week. I was building a stanchion and came here for ideas and it struck me, right now I hand milk and she stands still for me. Will I regret not having her restrained some day? Maybe something spooks her? She comes to me and stands for me.

    • Charlotte Smith January 16, 2015, 9:06 pm

      Greg – thanks so much for writing!! I know people who just have their cow stand for them with no restraint, but if you do it long enough something will eventually happen where you wish she was restrained.

      Stanchions are nice to have for treatment, too – AI, preg check, treating anything, etc. Hope this helps!!

      -Charlotte

  • Joan Stek January 23, 2015, 6:09 pm

    Great presentation! We just got our first cow, a Jersey. She is due in about 4 months and we needed some ideas about building the stantion. Thank you.

    • Charlotte Smith January 24, 2015, 4:02 pm

      Hi Joan – thank you so much for writing. Best of luck with your looking adventures!
      Xx
      Charlotte

  • Matt January 26, 2015, 1:52 am

    Hi Charlotte,

    I was wondering if you could give me the deminsions of the stanchion from ramp to ramp as we’ll as width? This is a great design that I think will work perfect in my old bank barn thank you so much for this great site as it has helped me in more ways then you can imagine!!

    Regards,

    • Charlotte Smith February 6, 2015, 10:55 pm

      Hey Matt – sorry this took awhile. Here you go:
      entrance ramp – 6’6″ long
      flat part where we milk them — 6’6″ long
      top of exit ramp which is flat — 4′
      exit ramp 5’3″

      does this help?

  • Elly February 11, 2015, 2:19 am

    I wanted to say thanks for sharing your milk stanchion building skills. I currently milk 1 Brown Swiss but have a second cow, a Guernsey due in April. I have been looking for ideas on how to speed up the milking when I will have 2 to milk. I am currently using a creep feeder that I dis-assembled and re-assembled. Which works good, but they do have to back out which slows the process. This looks very workable for my tobacco barn I milk in. I am not new to dairying but am new to micro dairy and raw milk. I’ve starred this page in my Google search to refer back. Thanks again for sharing!

  • May February 19, 2015, 12:57 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to share this! Just started the cow adventure and love your set-up.

  • Brandie April 1, 2015, 4:56 am

    What do you feed your cows while milking?

    • Charlotte Smith April 1, 2015, 2:04 pm

      I feed them about 4 lbs. of our gmo-free grain mix along with a scoop if fertrells dairy minerals. Thanks!

      • Sarah September 10, 2015, 3:45 am

        Hi! What is the exact name of the Fertrells mineral you feed? Thank you!

  • Rick Cutter July 21, 2015, 9:47 pm

    Charlotte,

    Great video!

    Where do you purchase your feed? Is there a national website that sells it?

    Also, how wide is your stanchion? We would like to have ours approx. the size to fit Holsteins.

    I appreciate your help! Again, great video!

    • Charlotte Smith August 3, 2015, 5:15 pm

      I purchase my feed locally here through Buxton Feed in Buxton, Oregon. They have a website but don’t sell nationally. But maybe you can look at their ingredients of their dairy feed – they work with a nutritionist to develop it – and maybe you can have some locally milled in your area, too?

    • Charlotte Smith August 3, 2015, 5:17 pm

      and here are the dimensions of the stanchion:

      entrance ramp – 6’6″ long
      flat part where we milk them — 6’6″ long
      top of exit ramp which is flat — 4′
      exit ramp 5’3″
      About 4′ wide, too. Definitely wide enough for a holstein.

  • Heidi Thieman September 30, 2015, 6:35 am

    Hi! Thankyou for allowing us to see inside your barn. This video was really timely for us because we are in the building phase. Our barn is not yet complete and now I see more things we can do to help us on our way. Thanks again! Heidi

  • Gena Pinheiro July 20, 2016, 10:40 am

    A big hello to you Charlotte from the Azores islands! Shawna Barr referred me to your site and I couldn’t be happier that she did! Could you talk a bit about what you do to protect yourself from a possible cow kick? Your Amalie seems to have a nice temperament, but we for instance have a few girls that would knock our head off our shoulders if we were positioned at that height and didn’t have some sort of protective bar in front of us. Would love to hear your suggestions for mitigating the situation.

    • Charlotte August 10, 2016, 8:02 pm

      Yes, Gena, a kick bar works great in your situation. Doesn’t hurt the cow, protects you, and isn’t expensive.

      You can buy them online, too.

      If you’re on Facebook I’d be happy to show you how to use it in a live video! Others could benefit, too!

      Thanks so much and so glad you’re here!

      Charlotte

  • Kim Curry July 29, 2016, 2:48 pm

    Do you think the cows will back down the ramp, if I don’t include the forward exit? We don’t have room to build two of these and still have a forward amp.

    • Charlotte August 10, 2016, 7:59 pm

      Hey Kim – thanks for your comment! Yes cows will back up they just prefer not to and to keep moving forward.

      But I have other farmers I know who, like you, don’t have the space so the cow has to back up. They get used to it.

      Take care,

      Charlotte

  • Andrea May 1, 2017, 8:02 pm

    Hello!

    Love your page 🙂

    Getting ready to build a raised stantion. Wondering if there are any modifications to your origional design – other than the width and the slope of the ramp – that you would recommend if you had a do over. I to am somewhat space limited, but I have an smaller, agile jersey/guerensy cross and turning corners doesn’t seem to be an issue for her.

    Thank you
    Andrea

  • Charlotte August 10, 2017, 4:43 pm

    what is the width of the exit area? I’m trying to determine how much room I should allocate for turning? I’m turning a lean to off my little shed in to milking area.

  • dusty September 23, 2017, 6:24 pm

    we are improving our milk parlor again and I am thinkg of putting plywood all the way up (8 foot) and wash down FDA walls then aluminum flashing under the stanchion and on the wall where the cow stands and walks. Has anyone tried this for cleaning.

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