Thursday, March 13, 2014

DIY Hand Milking Cow Stanchion

Hand-milking Bridget the family milk cow has been a very rewarding experience for me. Unfortunately, it's also been a bit of a trial with the fine, thought-out hand milking station T-post in a corner that I had set up. Wife and I also have been discussing getting a more comfortable sleeping arrangement for her. We're going to end up building an extension of sorts from the shed, creating a roof and a small "barn"-esque area for her right where the sheep's overwinter dry lot area is. Included in these plans was a milking stanchion.

So, the last several days, I worked on getting that done. Here's Bridget in the (nearly) final product:

Bridget Da'Cow munchin' some hay in her shiny new stanchion. The yellow stool is for me.
The rope is there in case I need to cinch her whilst kicking. I built on side wall to keep her
from shifting around too much. the chain link fence is part of the sheep lot. The remaining area
to the left, and behind me from this angle, will become her "barn."
It was super easy, aside from my drill continually running out of batteries. Using some 3" exterior wood screws and some scrap lumber, I put it together over 2 days (pausing only to recharge my drill).

I started by using measurements from the Keeping a Family Cow book. It wasn't an exact science, but I was working to fit Bridget and also work with the wood sizes I had. First, I sized and gathered the wood.

Wood measured and roughly assembled in place. The two parallel boards coming from the
shed will be the foundation of the feeding shelf and also set the distance from the shed.
Sidenote: Pardon the shadowy pictures. It was a VERY sunny day.  :)

The first key was going about 48" wide total. It ended up being 40" based on the wood I had. That was the width. I set the height to about 48" (give or take) based on how tall she was standing next to me (chest high). Again, not quite so scientific, as it relied heavily on what scrap lumber I had available to me.

I used the "sandwich" method described in the book to set the frame. The upper and lower horizontal cross bars "sandwiched" the inner vertical edge posts, creating a rectangular frame.

The "sandwich" frame on the ground being screwed together. The Family Cow book
lay next to me, providing sound guidance and support.  :)

Close-up of the corner. I left the wood on the bottom end long enough for the
hay shelf base to fit underneath. The "sandwich" boards are 2x6's, the verticals are 2x4's.
See the Family Cow book in the lower right? Guidance and support....

The "sandwich" frame fitting on top of the 2x10'-made hay shelf base.
The hay shelf base got screwed to the metal walls of the shed for stability.
You can see the double-screw method at work here.

I made sure to make it so that each piece of wood had TWO screws connecting it to another piece of wood. Double-screwing adds support and stability to the stanchion. So for each corner of the stanchion, there are 4 screws - two from the front into the vertical beam, and two from the back into the vertical beam.

Once the frame was built, I installed the two inner vertical beams. The one on the left, when facing the shed, went all the way to the ground for extra support. The other piece, to the right, was cut short and hinged.

The stanchion frame with the head gate. The taller piece in the middle is fixed,
and the shorter piece moves at the lower pivot point and is bolted in place on top.
This is a good shot of the area between the lower horizontal sandwich and the shed -
this, lined with 2x8's, becomes the hay feeding shelf. The hay shelf base is set inside the
vertical beams, and is screwed into the shed and double-screwed to the vertical beams.

The bolt with the nut on it is the lower pivot point for the movable bar, and the other
bolt is the upper "pin." I drilled the pin hole at a downward angle to make sure it doesn't fall out.

The lower pivot point.

The upper pin.
I took a tape measure to measure off Bridget's head and neck. I ended up with a 7" space for her neck (the tape measure said it was 6" wide, and her skull was 9" wide). This allowed her neck to be comfortable, but her head to remain in place. I started with that 7" spacing at the bottom when i attached the pivot point. I brought Bridget in for a test drive to get the top secured. It ended up being less than 7", but I'm not sure by how much. I just angled it to fit her.

Next, I built the side wall. This gives the impression of a "stall" of sorts, having a wall to one side. It allows me to move in closer without her continually fidgeting away. She bumps the side wall and stops, allowing me to move in and go to work.

I used the lower sandwich frame joint as the lower cross-bar height, and a scrap piece of two 2x4's nailed together to set the height of the upper cross-bar. I was able to find a pair of 2x4's for the cross bars that not only hit the shed, but also extended to the back of Bridget's hindquarters. It's a perfect fit. I then took a 2x8 to add to the middle for added support.

Thing #3 helping me build the stanchion side wall. Go Colts!

The stanchion side wall put together. Note how both cross bars extend to the shed.
There are some wood scraps screwed directly into the shed,
and the cross bars are screwed to the scraps.

Alternate angle view of the stanchion.
I've since cut the long, non-moving vertical piece down to fit.
The upper cross bar of the stanchion side wall, attached to the shed.
There are also two screws connecting the long piece to the short one.

The next step was adding some extra 2x8's to the hay shelf. I made a solid "floor" to pile on hay or a grain bucket to keep Bridget eating during milking.

And the results? She LOVES it!

The hay shelf provides an easy way to feed hay and grain without Bridget having
to bend over too far. It makes it easier for me to clean up, too. Win-win!
From this angle, you can also see the hay roll and the rest of the concrete area where her "barn"
will be. It'll go the end of the shed, and (from this angle) to the left until it hits the fence.
It's about half concrete, half grass/clover.

I've been milking in the stanchion since I finished it Tuesday afternoon. It is MUCH easier and more convenient than the T-post. For one thing, when she pees, it just runs down the concrete instead of making a muddy mess. She also plops sometimes, and it's easier to fork it away from pavement than pee-soaked mud (ew). I've also since added a support beam on the top right corner (no pic of this) that attached the sandwich joint to the shed via the same methods described above. With the head gate, there is a lot less shifting around and kicking. She really stays put a whole lot better, making the milking experience a lot smoother for everyone.

In the future, we'll add some fencing and a roof over the concrete area to provide shelter. Right now, milking is au naturale in the sun/rain/wind/etc. Soon, we'll be in the comfort of a shaded, privacy-screened fenced-in area. Woo! I'll also need to stain or paint the stanchion at some point, as some of the wood pieces are fairly weathered, as you can see. 

Stay tuned for those projects at another time....


  1. This is the best information I have found on milkiung stanchions yet! Thank you!!! I will be building one tomorrow.

  2. Thank you for posting this! I just got a cow and I always make do with wood on the property, so I love your put it together with what you have plans!! thank you!!