Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Cow Cart

I truly believe that within certain reasonable guidelines (like how long it takes to walk from one side of the farm to the other, how long it takes to hand-milk, much much you can lift, etc.), homesteading can be as difficult or as easy as you design it to be.

Taking care of the cows could involve multiple trips back and forth, first with cow, then lugging buckets of water, then staking them out, then lugging manure back, and so on. But it doesn't. I've designed a simpler approach. Presenting the cow cart:

The cow cart has everything I need to stake out (and clean up after) a cow for a day.
Except, of course, the cow herself....
Like all of my crazy, wacked-out schemes well-thought-out, rational designs, this one does not have "plans" associated with it. I basically used scrap wood pieces on top of a cart I bought from Northern Tool.

Using it, I can make a single trip per cow to wherever I need to go on the homestead and get the cows everything they need.

The crux of the cow cart is that it carries water, tethering tools, and a means for manure removal, as well as a place to store the lead rope (i.e., heavy-duty dog leash) during the day. With everything in one place, I can grab the cart and the cow and I'm off. Based on the time it took to set up before I built it versus now, I am saving about 10 minutes each morning - and this is BEFORE I started taking Brisket out behind the creek. I'm also getting a heckuva workout, since this thing can weigh upwards of 400 pounds when full of water. I bought the 1,000-pound version of the cart to support it. Yes, it was a little extra money, but it holds up beautifully and I do not have to worry about approaching its weight limit.

The major feature of the cow cart is simplified water delivery. I have a 35-gallon tank affixed to the cart via some 2x4's screwed into the cart itself, and topped off with screw-fastened baling twine tying the tank down to the cart. On the cart is a very simple 1/4-turn throw water valve.

Water delivery to anywhere on the homestead is solved via the cow cart.
I just drag the water out there and make sure the cows NEVER get dehydrated.
I also screwed in a wooden support beam to the side in case the cart ever tips over. the guide bar will catch it and prevent the nozzle from becoming damaged.

The next feature is the storage and accessibility of the post driving tools. The cows spent the better part of their day in a very focused intensive grazing setup made possible via tethering. I have a post driver tool, a post puller tool, and room for both T-posts and chains in the bottom of the cart. These are set behind the water tank.

The wooden frame keeps the post setting tools in place. There is room for chains and T-posts,
in addition to the tools shown (puller in black, driver in gray).
On top of the tools area are a few wooden planks that suspend the manure bucket. The big hole is where the manure fork sits, threading the handle of the bucket to keep it in place. Two vertical wooden 2x4 stay beams keep the front of the manure bucket in place during transport.

I can scoop the manure at the end of the day so I can both target the fertilization use,
and keep the fly population more under control. Go manure bucket!
I set the water buckets inside the manure bucket so I can take them along, too. Hydration is absolutely critical for the cows, and having the full tank and bucket with me in one trip just makes sense.

I also use the handle to tie the leash to, allowing me to keep it in one spot and always know where it is. before the cow cart, i was always losing the leash (like, 3 times a day), which cost time and effort. Now, it's always there.

Tying the cows' lead leash to the cow cart handle keeps it available all the time.
So, each morning after milking, I fill up the water tank at the house and let Bridget graze down the clover and grass along the house line. When it's full, I take the cart in one hand and the cow in the other, head out to where she'll be grazing that day, and set up. I can only imagine what a sight I am....

I then fetch Brisket and repeat, and leave the cart accessible for clean-up that day. It cuts down on the time I spend going back and forth dealing with different things, and maybe even more importantly, allows me to keep everything in one place and organized. Since using the cart, I have yet to lose the leash or the post driver, which were frequent occurrences prior to building it.

The cow cart in all its glory, manure fork included.
On top of highly efficient cow care, I also get a killer workout using this thing. Hauling 300 pounds of water, plus wood and solid metal tools, is a great way to burn energy and build muscle tone. My legs have gotten a lot stronger in the last few weeks of this. The exercise is right in line with my reasons for homesteading in the first place - it helps me develop a strong body and healthy family environment.

Maybe one of these days I'll write a book containing all of my DIY designs with plans and material lists. In the meantime, I've got some more projects to finish up. And water to pull around.


  1. Hello! I just got done checking out your blog and had a quick question. I was hoping you could email me back when you get the chance. Thanks! - Cam

  2. Yeah, sure. How bout leaving your email address?