Dairy farming has been a long tradition in my family ever since the Fredericks came to America in the 1870s (my brother and I are the first on our branch to break tradition). It is extraordinary to think how much farm mechanization has changed in 140 plus years my family has been in this country. Our dairy barn has some remnants of the old mechanical devices formerly used by dairy farmers.
The dairy barn’s structure has changed dramatically over the years. Our barn was built with a mortise and tenon frame, which required a lot of skilled woodworkers to build. As time went on, constructing barns in this fashion gave way to the cheaper plank frame. The open-style hayloft of the plank frame barns made movement of hay in the loft faster; free from obstruction of mortise and tenon framing.
Inside the barn were special mechanical devices to make the farm work easier. Most of these devices have long since been removed. A lot of barns, including ours, had a hay carrier in the loft area. A long rail ran the length of the barn and out a large door at one end. Hay was brought to the barnyard (loose or baled form), and the hay forks were lowered to the hay, hoisted up, and shuttled into the barn. All that remains of our hay carrier is the rail and trolley; an electric bale conveyor was installed to replace the old carrier. Click here for more information on this technology.
Example of a Hay Carrier
Our barn also used to have a few other old items you cannot find in a modern dairy barn. There used to be a manure carrier running the length and out of the barn. It was essentially a tub suspended from a rail that could be moved around the barn, loaded up with manure, and transported out of the barn. Mechanized barn cleaners eventually replaced this system of cleaning the barn. Before we gutted our barn, there used to be stanchions for locking in our dairy cows. The cows would put their heads through a headlock, and then we went to each stanchion to manually lock them in.
There were many other tools and equipment used in dairy barns. Milking has drastically changed in 100 years. My Grandpa Frederick once told me that he started off with less than a dozen cows. Now dairy farms are milking thousands of cows using automated milking technology. Little dairy farms are disappearing; small-scale milking operations do not pay well. Nevertheless, it is very interesting to look inside these old buildings to see how a farmer made his living.
Do you have an old dairy barn? What sort of old tools are still equipped in your barn? Has your dairy farm been in the family for generations?