Below you can see a picture of our cows resting comfortably in our current barn. We built that barn in 2005, and have been generally pleased with how our cows are doing in there, but we know they deserve better. This barn is a bedded pack barn, which is a "one size fits all" type of a barn. Our cows had an enormous amount of flexibility to move around where they would want, but with that flexibility came some challenges. They were at risk of stepping on each other, laying in manure (causing them to get infections and just be dirty) and at risk of getting infections in their feet. All of these challenges were manageable, but we knew we could do better. The cows are comfortable, and that's hard to beat.....meet the new barn!
Our new barn will be a free stall barn, which will allow us to have designated areas (beds) for each cow, preventing them from laying in manure, stepping on each other, and fighting for their favorite spot. These beds will be bedded with sand instead of saw dust. Since sand is inorganic, bacteria have a hard time growing, thereby helping us to maintain quality milk from healthy cows. The sand also gives traction to the cows walking on concrete. Mature cows will be in one pen and new heifers/smaller cows will be in another pen. We are actually not adding cows, contrary to the rumors flying around, but making more space for our growing herd. The entire milking herd will be moving to the new barn once it's completed. But have no fear, we are still going to be using our 2005 barn...just with a new purpose....a dry cow/fresh cow/special needs barn!
For the past 5 years we have been "housing" our dry cows (pregnant cows, right before calving) outdoors, with no shed. The have shade in the summer and wind breaks in the winter, and that's been working for us, but it takes LOTS of hard work on our part to make sure that these important animals on our farm get the best care possible. When we move the milking herd out of the 2005 barn we will move the dry cows and pregnant heifers into the pack barn. We plan on leaving our half of the pack barn as a pack, bedded with dry corn leaves and stalks. These pens will allows us to have our dry cows indoors! They will be able to enjoy shelter from the Minnesota weather (mainly the winters that are the hardest!) as well as deliver their calves in more comfortable facility. In the case that a cow needs help delivering her calf, we will now have facilities that will make that care possible. I speak from experience, that it's not fun trying to chase a cow that's calving around in a big yard, let alone in a muddy or snowy yard! It's this part of the project that makes us the most excited! Giving better care to my pregnant cows makes me so thrilled! They are tough girls, and handled the outdoors just fine, but on those wet and snowy days, I really felt for them.
This is a big project, but financially we aren't going to be spending any more per month than we are now. So how's that work??? Well, when we built our pack barn in 2005 the cost of saw dust was less than 50% than what it is now. Currently we spend enough each month on saw dust bedding for the pack barn, that we have enough money to cover the loan payments and the cost of sand bedding! We are confident these changes will help us to increase the quality of care that our cows get each day, and to us, that means more than any financial benefit. Peace of mind, knowing our cows rest safely in a new barn, clean & comfortable....is priceless!!!
|Our cows resting comfortably in our current barn,|
but we hope they'll be even more comfortable
in the new barn!
|The PLAN...including the next steps for the Spring 2012.|