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Step 4: Location, Location, Location

Step 4: Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location

A typical tie-stall barn for cows, also called a milking barn.

Once you’ve worked out your business model, you need to think about the setup of the micro dairy. The traditional rule of thumb in the northeast is two acres of pasture for every cow. At my farm in South Royalton, Vermont, I reserve four acres of pasture for every cow. This gives me a buffer in case of a dry summer, when high temperatures can dry up precious grass. If you do not have four acres for every cow, you should be prepared to supplement what pasture you do have with hay. 

In addition to sufficient land, you need a good, steady supply of water. Generally, streams and ponds are not good primary sources of water. They can dry up or run low in the summer or become contaminated. Your animals should have a constant supply of clean, potable water in tubs which are fed by lines from the barn’s water supply. 

Bob White Systems - Steve Judge - Micro Dairy - Homestead - Cow - Goat - Jersey Cow - Milk - Dairy - Livestock Housing - Dairy Barn

A run-in shed for cows.

Now that you’ve got your animals situated on enough land and supplied with food and water, you must consider housing. Housing is a personal decision based, mostly, on your preferences as the farmer and keeper of the animals. The choices range from simple run-in sheds to more complicated free- or tie-stall barns. The advantage of a tie barn is that it can double as a milking barn, while simpler run-in sheds and free-stall barns usually require a separate milking parlor. The basic rule is to keep the facilities simple and reduce the walking required for cows and humans.

Whatever type of housing you choose, a micro dairy barn should be located be in a dry, well drained and relatively flat spot close to where you can store manure and compost. This allows your cows to get in and out of the barn and out to pasture comfortably without having to climb up or down a hill. It also makes trailering animals easy, and reduces how far you have to go to compost manure. Be warned: one cow produces 100 pounds of manure every day. Before you build, check with local authorities about zoning and/or sanitary or septic requirements. You should also contact the local dairy inspector to determine exactly what they will approve. Requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

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