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More Potty Talk; Raising the Bar

February 10, 2011

It’s getting deep around here.  The BS bedding pack that is.  All that hay we stored in the barn is now turning into fertilizer in the form of cow manure and urine.  With deep bedding we are able to capture most of it.  I can’t make the cows stay in the barn every minute of the day, so some does end up in the sacrifice area.  But still, this is a vast improvement over our old way of just feeding the cows outside during the winter.

But, you know there is always a but.  When it starts to get deep the cows start rubbing their necks and shoulders on the bars and we need to raise the feeder gate.  Itching Jane is one thing, being a bovine chiropractor to the whole herd is another.   In one barn we have a fixed feeder and that doesn’t work very well at all with deep bedding, pretty soon the cows have to kneel to eat and that is a pain for them.  The movable feeder gate is much nicer.  After looking at Salatin’s feeder, DH made ours a little different.  We purchased feeder panels and attached them to logs (40′ logs are plentiful around here) and used plywood sheets for the bunk part.   For ease of stacking hay and getting to the pigs in the feeding shed during the summer, the plywood bunk is not permanent, and is easily removed.

Now you can see why we save the plastic twine.  It does come in handy.  The 2″ x 6″ is resting on the bottom log of the feeder gate and the plywood just rests  on the log and the 2″ x6″.  The twine is an improvement.  At first we just installed the plywood on top of the boards, not realizing just how much the cows would move several pieces of plywood trying to get at that last morsel.  It was a pain to have to “rebuild” the feed bunk every morning, so with a few strategic holes drilled in the plywood, we just lashed it to eye bolt.  Works perfect!  It didn’t cost anything and we can easily cut the twine when it is time to dismantle and remove the plywood.

The feeder gate (40 feet long) is attached to the plate in the pole barn at the ends, and in the middle with come-alongs for raising and lowering as needed.

Hey, maybe this is how he wrecked his vest zipper… .

This the Super-Human Daddy strength part of Man Craft.  But really it isn’t that difficult with the come-along to ratchet the entire gate up a few inches by working your way along the length of the feeder gate.

I like the feeding shed addition to our farm chores, compared to delivering the feed to the cattle out in the pasture.  I can’t really see a downside to this way of wintering cattle at all.

♥  We are saving fuel, no heavy metal is involved until clean out time.

♥  We are saving feed, the cows eat less because they are warmer, and there is zero waste with correct feeder position.  (I don’t know about you, but making hay is a hard job, the less hay we have to make the easier it is.)

♥  We have a comfortable place to work out of the elements while we are feeding and bedding.  With feed conveniently located, a child can do the chores if needed.

♥  We’re building compost by salvaging as much manure and urine as we can, instead of letting it go to waste on cold soils in the winter months.

♥  We’re resting the pastures.

Next post, even more manurey stuff.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. susan permalink
    February 10, 2011 12:11 pm

    I swear you should write a book about all this. So much good information. And I love your new banner photo – what a beautiful shot.

  2. February 10, 2011 2:26 pm

    Congratulations to you and DH. That looks like a great feeder. 🙂

    • February 10, 2011 2:32 pm

      LindaG, we’ve been using it 9 years now and there isn’t too much I would change if we build another one. It actually works pretty good.

  3. Bob permalink
    February 10, 2011 2:36 pm

    Curious if those head gates would work for dexters with horns? I am getting sick of all the hay waste I currently have.

    • February 10, 2011 3:58 pm

      Bob. cows with horns will learn how to get their heads in, but these might be too small. You may want to make your own with a V-shape – those work pretty well, since a cow naturally puts their head up to get out of a predicament. I currently only have one cow with horns and she manages well unless someone decides to lambast her in the side and then she gets pretty upset since she can’t get out quick enough. She is timid despite her horns. Cows like to eat with their heads down, the high up feeders are useless if you don’t want to waste hay.

  4. February 10, 2011 4:44 pm

    Would love to hear how you manage your horse’s manure as well as how you fit the horse in your rotational grazing schedule. I know you don’t move it everyday like the cattle, but do you rotate permanent pastures…?

  5. February 10, 2011 6:37 pm

    I learn something new every time I visit your blog! We’re trying the deep litter method too with our goats. The inability to raise our fence might eventually be problematic though. We’re sort of learning as we go. ;\

    Have you read “Holy Sh!t” by Gene Logsdon? He totally sold me on the deep litter method and just generally made me appreciate my critter poo even more that I already did – which is actually quite a feat. 😉

    • February 10, 2011 6:53 pm

      Michelle, you might have to just clean out more often. I can’t really leave my chickens as long as the cows either due to wall design. But it doesn’t mean you can’t clean out your area and start again!

      I’ve only read an chapter here and there of Gene’s latest, I am sure it is good. I’ve had Small-Scale Grain Raising since the 70’s and I love his writing style.

  6. February 10, 2011 10:15 pm

    I was thinking about you guys and your Man/Woman Craft today. DBF often says things like “You’re a woman! You can’t lift that/take the garbage out/mow the lawn/hammer that nail!”

    Today it was “You’re a woman! You can’t make dinner!”

  7. February 11, 2011 3:53 am

    We are lucky and only have two steers and two calves in the shed but they sure can pile up the bedding fast in a small enclosure. I love the idea you used. I will have to show the hubby.

  8. February 11, 2011 12:15 pm

    Thanks for another great post. You might describe this somewhere else, but what about entrance/exit areas for the cows? How do you deal with this as the bedding height grows?

    • February 11, 2011 1:47 pm

      Darcy, at first we tried panels with a gate to restrict the cows from coming back in while we were bedding and to keep the tracked out bedding to a minimum. But that soon became a nightmare of a chore to clear the bedding away from the gate so it could be opened and closed. We dealt with that issue for several years, putting up with the extra work, but the gates came out one day when a fight ensued in the herd and someone got shoved over the panel that was basically only 18″ high due to the bedding buildup, but really a 5′ drop over the side. At that point you have to pencil out the difference between a possble animal injury or death and some lost future compost. As you can probably guess, the panels came out, and now we restrict their access with a fake hotwire while bedding, otherwise they have access to a small sacrifice area. At the other end, there is a gate for continuous drive through cleaning. If you have Salad Bar Beef, the photos in the Winter Hay feeding section show the hay barn at Polyface with cows in place during the winter, ours is basically the same.

  9. February 11, 2011 2:24 pm

    Our cow manure is so frozen I can pick it up and fling it like a top!


  10. February 14, 2015 9:12 am

    here I am scouring your old posts for cow info again! I so appreciate all the details and experience you share. (Also got the email with that cow calf pair- you!!!!) I will have to improvise initially with what we have to work with (a super solid and small 3 sided shed) until we can cash flow the construction of a whole new set up eventually. That’s mostly what I’m doing with this research, designing my dream set up. Opposite of the feed gate setup is this idea- I’ve always wanted to have 3 winter cow deep bedding areas (maybe just using round bales in hay rings?) that rotate every three years with my garden. Not sure if that’s way too dreamy of an idea…

    • February 14, 2015 2:32 pm

      I’m jealous, I think I will never build my dream barn, but that’s okay too. Working with what we have makes us think, and sometimes you don’t know when you’re building something just what you’ll need or don’t like. There always seems to be a hearty pro and con list with each project that we do. Makes life interesting. 🙂 Couldn’t resist sending the ad on to you, it helps to see what’s out there when you’re looking 🙂

      On your winter feeding idea, my worry would be too much compaction especially if it was exposed to any weather at all…just my thought though. You never know until you know. Areas like that grow great grass, veggies are a little work with that much fertilization, but it could work.

      • February 15, 2015 3:46 pm

        very true on the compaction, hadn’t thought of that, plus I have miserable luck with mulching anyways (slugs and voles.) Maybe keeping it as you do and then collecting the deep bedding to compost would be a better idea, always good to try to think through as much as possible beforehand and then work with what you have as well. Thanks so much!

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