Ms. Jane Butterfield has her own shed…this winter anyway.
Adalyn and HeadFarmSteward had some questions about my comments on the workings of the feeding shed, and it seemed easiest to explain in more detail in post format. I don’t know about you but those little comment boxes drive me a little batty. ;p
In most cases a loafing shed is a three-sided building or a three-sided attachment to an existing barn to allow animals a place to feed and loaf out of the weather year round. Summer or winter. The stock access the loafing area on the long open side to the pasture. To a cow, that big open side gives her ample room to get away from her bovine bullies. These are real common and a fixture on fixed pasture/continuous grazing farms. In the photo above, Jane is standing in a shed of that design. Note they are hard to clean and generally are not deep bedded.
Enter now the feeding shed concept. A place to confine cattle in close quarters and gather all their manure while the pasture rests in the off-season. Kind of a loafing shed with benefits. If you’re of the deep bedding mindset you are bedding this shed like crazy… To clean out all this deep bedding, the simplest design is to have the long sides enclosed permanently – one side secure enough to keep errant cattle/hogs in and to keep the bedding in, the other long side is the feeding area. The cattle enter from the end/ends and they stay in there. Prison basically. To clean out all this precious material that DBManiacs amass, the ends are usually the entrance. It’s much easier to clean out when you can get at the deep bedding from the ends and therein lies the rub. What’s good for the equipment operator is not necessarily good or easy on the cows. There are tons of studies on how wide to make lanes for watering cattle or moving them from pasture to pasture. Cows don’t like narrow lanes and essentially that’s what a feeding shed is. No one except the dominant beasts want to go down to the end of the box canyon, that’s just instinct. And heaven help the doofus that goes into the corner of a barn. Cattle use their heads like battering rams and they aren’t afraid to do so if someone is ticking them off by breathing or something other such infraction. If the demure cow goes down to the end of the shed to eat and someone gets their tail in a bunch, that poor cow has to get back out to the end to be feel safe. Pretty stressful at meal time, it’s up to us to alleviate that if we can. Our shed is 18 feet deep and 40 feet long, because again we had to take into consideration the constraints of the building, roof pitch, location etc. 25 feet would be great but it wouldn’t be possible on this site. Someday when I suddenly wake up 20 years younger or win the lottery I will build a different barn, but in the meantime we had to work with what we had. Attaching a feeding shed to an existing hay barn where all the hay is stored is kind of a no-brainer.
To mitigate the 18 feet depth that is sometimes problematic with the cows, we have put a rub rail against the outside wall. I call it a rub rail, but actually it is a 40 foot log that spans the length of the shed and it is actually a strong piece of wood that when the cows fight (if they do) they do not push anyone through the fence. They hit the log instead, and because the grain has not been broken like in dimensional sawn lumber, the log holds the cow in. Why logs? Besides strength, they are readily available in the forest. We have them in the loafing shed too along the wall, it sure saves the siding from getting kicked out. This older post shows more feeding shed photos.
I think where humans (me included, we’re still honing our observation skills) err is on the math. To animals, the square footage is just a number we use. It really matters what configuration the square footage is in. Take a Salatin style field pen for broilers, 10′ x 12′ 120 square feet, and will hold about 75 broilers comfortably for 5 or 6 weeks on pasture if moved every day. Build that same pen long and skinny, but the same square footage, and the broilers would be stressed out to the max. Same with a 20 x 96 greenhouse, compared to a 30 x 72, for plants it works pretty well, put chickens in there for winter deep bedding, and you’ll find the chickens bunched in the narrower greenhouse, and not as spread out. As for cattle grazing paddocks, square is good when the cows are nursing babies and trying to get in shape for re-breeding, cow comfort and health should be at the forefront. Late in the year you can use the cows and older calves for more landscape redemption by putting them in narrower paddocks. They will trample more and eat less and rejuvenate the soil faster. Keeping this in mind explains why fixed paddock sizes produce mediocre results in rotational grazing. We’re always told size matters, and it does for many reasons, but it pays to use that size in configurations that help instead of hindering.