The Cow Shed
The Cow Shed during the summer (left end of barn). The board across the entrance are to keep the pigs and compost inside while the work or composting is going on
During the winter we feed the cows in the cow shed. This is a shed we built on to the west side of our old bank barn about 5 or 6 years ago. It is 40'x16' and is completely open on the south side. This is a sort of freestall barn setup, where they can go inside or outside as they want to. On mornings like this, when it is 0 degrees and windy, but bright and sunny the attributes of this setup really shine. The cows sit in out of the wind, in the full sun, on a warm composting 3 foot dry bedding pack. They almost smile while they chew their cud. Their are feeder gates the length of the shed, about 2 feet from the old barn wall. Because the shed is built onto the barn where the hay is stored it is very easy to throw the hay down behind the feeder gates. These gates are welded together out of old dairy barn stantions and channel iron, and are easy to raise up as the bedding pack gets higher during the course of the winter. We also keep adding bedding material to keep the cows clean and dry, as well as to maintain the right carbon to nitrogen ratio of about 20 to 1. When this ratio is right the carbon acts like a sponge to absorb the nitrogen from the cow manure and urine. This stabilizes the nitrogen which keeps it available for fertilizing the fields during the growing season. It also reduces odors and the possibility of ground water and stream contamination. After we move the cows onto pasture we like to move pigs onto the bedding pack to aerate it, which speeds up the composting process. After it is composted we move the pigs back out and clean out the shed with the front end loader, loading it into the manure spreader, which spreads it evenly across the pasture and hay fields.