Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Our Dexter Milking Stanchion Plans

Here are two photos of our Dexter milking stanchion for reference:

From the side . . .

... and from the rear.
List of Supplies

NOTE:  All lumber is pressure-treated
Four 8' 4x4s
Fifteen 6' 2x6s
One 8' 2x6
Four 6' 2x4s
Two galvanized bolts with washers and nuts, 6" long
Galvanized nails (5+ lbs.) & screws, if desired
Circular saw
Power drill
Measuring tape
Carpenter's pencil
Chalk line

Here's a general explanation of the structure of our stanchion:

  • The four corner posts are 8-foot 4x4s (all lumber is pressure-treated).  You could definitely use shorter ones or cut them off to 7 feet.  
  • The floor supports are 6-foot 2x6s nailed inside the corner posts.  
  • The floor is made of 2x6s cut into 36" lengths.  (You could use 12-footers cut into four pieces which is a bit cheaper and a bit more work, also requires a trailer to haul them home.)  
  • Six 2x6s made 12 floorboards.  The floor area is 6' long and 36" wide.
  • The floor is 7" high off the milking parlor floor.
  • The two upper side braces (Herb's hand is resting on one) are nailed on the outside.  They are 2x6s.
  • The two lower side braces are nailed on the inside.  The height is customized for me.

  • The lintel brace is really a "header."  It's nailed about 7' up, high enough for me to easily walk under.
  • All the horizontal cross pieces at the head of the stanchion are 2x6s.
  • The visible (inside) 2x6s are 36" long and are toe-nailed in between the corner posts.
  • The outside (not visible) 2x6s are 42" long.  They are cut from the one 8' 2x6.  They are nailed on the far outside of the corner posts.  These cross pieces are for structural support as well as to help hold the neck-catcher boards.
  • The two neck-catcher boards are made from 2x4s and are 58" long.
  • The two neck-catcher boards are held in place by the two 6" bolts, allowing them to pivot.  Note that we put the smooth head of the bolt on the "cow side" of the stanchion.  The parts that protrude is under the feed box so neither cow nor calf can get hurt on them.
  • When the neck-catchers are moved in against the cow's neck, the two latches fold down on their hinges, holding the neck-catchers in place.
  • The latch boards are made from scrap 2x4 lumber and are 10 and 3/4" long.  They are attached with standard door hinges.  I calculated them into the lumber list.
  • The feed box is built from scrap lumber.  If you use our list, you will probably need to buy extra lumber to build a feed box.
  • There are angled braces below the neck-catcher latches and on each upper side support.

    There is another angled brace above the lintel (header) brace where the cow enters, for a total of five angled braces.

  • There is also a vertical nailer connecting a corner post to a rafter.
  • We used scrap lumber for the braces, but I calculated their total length at about 12 feet of lumber, so I added one extra 12 foot 2x4 to the supply list.

The feed box is 22" x 23", sized to hold a large rubber feed tub.  It is free-standing from the stanchion, although we built it so that the little piece of 2x4 you can see to the left of the lead rope rests on the horizontal support of the stanchion and also rests against the neck-catchers.

We pushed the feed box against the wall and moved the stanchion against it before nailing the stanchion to the ceiling.

It takes two of us to shift the stanchion, but it can be done with a fair amount of effort.
For now we have left the back open to the barnyard and one side open to the barn.  Herb has since covered the lower part of the gates with hardware cloth to keep the chickens out of the milking parlor.

Here are some final dimensions:

  • The milking parlor floor is 10'2" wide by 12'4" long.
  • There are 43" of clearance on one side and 45" on the other.
  • The stanchion is 22" from the wall and the feed box is in this space.
  • There is a functional 33" width inside the stanchion for the cow.  Siobhan enters this space with no problem now that she's used to there being food in there!  If she should move too much from side to side, we can always add nailer boards on top of the side 2x6s to give her less room to move.  However, Sara is wider than Siobhan and we want her to fit in here, too.
  • The milking parlor floor is 10" high from the barnyard.
  • The cow has 53" of space inside the milking parlor before she has to step up 7" into the stanchion.
  • We can tie the calf to a corner post near the cow's head if desired, we can bring it around to nurse if needed to get her to let down, or we can leave it in the barnyard to the right of the side gate.  The gate you see opened into the barnyard can swing around to close off the area next to the milking parlor.
I hope these plans are helpful for anyone considering building a milking parlor and stanchion for their Dexter (or similar-sized) cow.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in a comment.  I receive notifications of any comments and try to answer them promptly.  Feel free to link back to this post.  If you'd like to use any of the photos, please be kind enough to ask my permission!  These photos, the supply list, and the tutorial represent a LOT of work on my part in addition to Herb's labor building the stanchion and our custom adaptations to designs available on the internet!  I'm willing to share and help others, but I'd like to receive credit (or blame) for our work!


  1. Thank you so much for this! I've had my Dexters for 2 years now, and one of the obstacles to me milking them has been my inability to find a good set of instructions for building a stanchion that would fit them.

    1. Hooray, Mel! I'm so glad I put this up! Keep me posted! (And thanks for replying, it's an encouragement to keep posting.)

  2. These are great pictures. Thanks. My dexter arrives next week. We're just finishing up her barn and I haven't been able to come up with a good plan for the layout of our milking space. This is a big help. Karen
    Great blog too.

    1. Congratulations, Karen! What an exciting time for you! I'm glad this was helpful. I wish you all the best milking your girl!

      The one change I'm going to have my husband make is to raise the side bar; it turns out that it's just where my head wants to lean forward against my cow, so I end up having to duck. I'm also going to have him add some boards inside to decrease the amount of room she has to move back and forth from side to side.

    2. I just found your blog.
      My name is Paula Crowe & we live just above you in Rosman, NC. We are new to dexters , having 2 cows & 1 bull. 1 lil heifer & 2 steer. I am wanting a milk stanction , so this is great to come across.....THANKS so much for the pictures, it helps so much to "SEE" how you built it.

      in NC :-)
      adca 8393

    3. You're very welcome, Paula! I need to do an update on a few adjustments we made, but I'll tell you here so you can incorporate the changes if you wish. I think we made it wider than we needed to, and it gives the cow too much leeway to move side to side which can make it harder to reach her. Siobhan is pretty large and pregnant, and it's still wider than she needs. Also, the rail that runs from front to back on each side was too low for me to easily duck my head under while sitting on my milk bucket seat. So we marked a line along the top of each rail, then my husband took them off and moved them up so the bottom of the rail is now where the top used to be. That made it the perfect height for me to lean under; I'm 5 5 1/2" tall, if that helps. To remedy the too-wide aspect, he nailed another 2 x 6 on the inside of each side rail. Hope this helps!

      I'm so glad to hear from you! Welcome to the ADCA and Dexters! Feel free to call if you have any questions about milking. I don't know how trained your cows are. We raised Siobhan from birth and halter broke her, which helps, but she has been so easy to train!

  3. Hi! We are considering building this stanchion for american milking devons. Do you think this would work? We have no idea. We are trying to get it built before they come to us. Thanks!

    1. I would think it would work. I googled them, and it looks like they get 1,000 to 1,200 lbs. Our Dexters are about 700-750. I think you might want to make it a tad longer. I think the width should be good for you because it's actually a bit wide for our girls, and we put an extra 2x4 inside to try to narrow it. If you should find it too narrow for one, you could always remove and raise the long side support so it would hit higher up in the narrow area of her back. However, you won't be milking them when they're super pregnant because they should be dried off by then, so I don't think it will be a problem.

      Best of luck with your girls! And I suggest getting some lightweight rubber stall mat, sold at Tractor Supply from a roll, to put on the stanchion floor. It has helped a lot when they pee (because they do sometimes) to keep them from slipping and getting scared. I still want a piece for the milking parlor floor for wet, muddy weather so they don't slip coming in. The more secure they feel, the more willingly they'll come in.

  4. Thank you, Thank you. I am building the milking station for our new cow (Ruby) and was stuck for ideas. This is terrific. What a great job you have done.. Cheers, Vanessa -Australia (

    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Vanessa! (I tried to thank you while we were away traveling, but I couldn't get it to go through.) I'll be sure to pass the compliment on to my husband, the builder! I hope you have a marvelous time milking your new Ruby. :)

  5. Thank you for linking to this from KFC. We have four heifers, who we hope will calve in the spring, so we will be needing a milking stanchion. I have given the link to my DH (my handy man:). It looks great. We don't have a barn, but we will find a great place to milk anyway.

    1. You're so welcome! I'm glad it was timely for you. You are really going to be busy milking! Wow, four first-calf heifers! Some people have even built free-standing stanchions outside with a little roof on top. If you click on "Milking Parlor & Stanchion" in the Labels section, I think one of the posts has some other links that might give you ideas. Have fun with your stanchion and your heifers!

  6. Hi! We're thrilled to find these milking stanchion plans published and free to use. We'd like to build these for our new herd of registered Dexters. Before we start purchasing materials and building, we're wondering if you would make any modifications to the stanchion now that you've been using it?

    Thanks! Mandy (Kingston, Ontario, Canada)

    1. Hi Mandy,
      I'm glad you can use the plans! Depending on your individual cattle, I think we could have made it narrower. Since I milk from both sides, it's not a problem for me, and my cows stand pretty still, but if one wanted to shift, there would be room. :) Of course, you can always hang an inner tube inside one side to narrow it, but you can't make it wider once it's done. :) We had one very wide cow and wanted to be sure she fit, but as it turned out, we sold her before I milked her.

      As my young cows have matured, the neck catch is a bit close together for the one. I'm going to have my husband drill me one or two more holes so I can adjust it a bit wider.

      Other than that, the only change I would make is to build the milking parlor floor with a slightly increased slant toward the rear. That would make it easier to sweep water out after cleaning.

      If you have short cows, whether chondro-positive or not, you could probably build the floor a bit higher, too. My girls step up and back down with no problem. The height works fine for me when I sit on a 5-gallon bucket, and I do have back problems, but that's just a thought.

      What I might suggest if you plan to build more than one stanchion is to build one first and try it out to see if there's any way you care to modify it.

      I'd love to hear how things go for you! Thanks so much for contacting me! Best of luck!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this. I just finished building one following your plans! I love it :-)

    1. You're so welcome, Kimberly! Thank you for letting me know. :) I'll let Herb know, too. It's really encouraging to hear this. :)

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  9. Would these dimensions work for a Jersey?

    1. They should. The stanchion is plenty wide for our Dexters and long enough, too.

  10. Great plans thank you! What would you do to make taller, use a 2x10 at the bottom or 2 2x6?

    1. Ricki, glad you like the plans. As far as making it taller, I would consider several factors. How tall is the person who'll be doing most of the milking? I'm 5'5 1/2" tall, and this works for me. Given the choice, I might raise it 4" (use 2x10), but not more than that. If the main milker will be much taller than that, you could use 2x12. The other factor to consider is your cows. If your cow is chondro positive (a dwarf) you would definitely want to raise it so that her udder will be proportionally raised. If your cow is pretty tame, halter trained, etc. she should adapt fine to the height. If you'll be milking first calf heifers that haven't been trained or stand-offish cows, the taller height might be intimidating. That being said, if your milking parlor can permit your cow to exit face first instead of backing up, you don't have to worry near as much about the height being too tall. They step up just fine; it's the backing they are careful about. Lightweight stall mats in the step-up area, on the stanchion floor, and in the step-down area will really give your cow confidence and keep her from slipping.

  11. Thanks for this tutorial, it's quite helpful. I've only had my cow for two months, and happily milk her outside. However, it's time to get her bred, and I know a stanchion will make the job easier for the AI tech. I appreciate your descriptions and photos!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kate! Our stanchion is practically outside since it really only has one wall and a roof, and I do love that it's open. Harder to keep the flies out, but most of the time it's really pleasant. On the rare occasions I've had to milk in a pouring rain, I do like the roof, though. And yes, I'm sure the AI tech will appreciate if you have a way to hold her more or less still. I always love to hear about someone who is happily milking! Good luck with getting your cow bred!

    2. This is a great article and I really appreciate the plans. I have Dexters, but bought a Jersey this summer with her heifer calf. She had been AI bred the week before I picked them up. I needed to figure out how to build a milk stanchion before Sabrina calves, and you really saved me! I found another plan much bigger and heavy, and it had a board which they called a kick guard which slides in just in front of the hind legs and keeps the bucket and milk maid from being kicked. I thought it was brilliant, and rather than chance that my cows won't kick, I will just prepare for it. I can't wait!!! Thank you Susan and Herb for the details and sharing, Health and happiness to you!

    3. Hi Anonymous, you're very welcome! If you want to send me the kick guard photo through the contact form, I'd be glad to add it to this post in case anyone wants that added assurance. :)

  12. This is great, thank you so much! Our dexter cow is arriving in a few days and she is in milk so I am getting ready to start milking her right away. I already milk my goats, but I have two questions specific to cows if I may.

    First, what is the distance between the head catcher boards in order to catch the cow's neck sufficiently without choking her? Perhaps this varies from cow to cow and requires some trial and error?

    Second, my set up is very simple, with pretty much just a head gate that is well anchored to above and below, bolted into the concrete floor and cross beams above. I don't have any side boards at all. Do you think these are necessary in case the cow wants to shift around from side to side, or are they more for support of the structure? The cow we are getting is already used to being milked so I'm hoping the simple headgate I have will work for her!

    1. Congratulations, Susan! What a great beginning, getting a cow in milk and used to being milked--not to mention already knowing how to milk goats! If you want to come back later and tell us what's different between goats and your cow--besides having to count to four instead of two!--I'd love to hear. :)

      I'll have to measure the space between the neck catcher boards during daylight, but it will depend on your particular cow. We have two sets of holes and can adjust the spacing as needed, but you don't really want to have to change it on a regular basis. The main adjustment we needed was as the girls matured and became heavier, we added the second set of holes.

      As far as side boards, if your stanchion is sturdy enough without them and your cow doesn't shift, there's no real need for them. It sounds like your cow will be on the concrete floor, but with her head secured, so I don't think side boards are necessary. The side boards serve several purposes in our stanchion. Since it's elevated from the floor of the milking parlor, the sides help keep a shifting cow from accidentally stepping a foot off the side. I have a bad knee and some back issues, so sometimes when I want to get up off my 5-gallon-bucket-stool, I hook an elbow up over the side bar and use it to help me get up. :) And finally, the sides are structurally important to the way ours was built and help make it very solid.

      I hope this helps. I'll come back soon with measurements on the neck catcher spacing.

    2. The spacing we had set up seemed to work well, and we had our first milking tonight. Dem teats sure are big compared to goats! (I have Nigerian Dwarf) But she's an easy milker so I actually found it much faster than milking a goat.

      I can see why you have an elevated stanchion though...that udder is pretty close to the ground, even sitting on my very low stool. I may have to bring a cushion to barn and sit on the floor!

  13. I'm glad it went well, Susan She sounds like a sweet cow! I definitely want to see a photo of you sitting on a cushion to milk! :)

  14. Approximately how long did it take you to build?

    1. Aaron, the longest part was leveling and building the base of concrete blocks. If you have a level or concrete surface to begin with, instead of a dirt-floored barn, it would go alot quicker. That part took 2-3 partial days. The main stanchion part was 1-2 days' work. All in all, under a week. It would depend on how handy of a carpenter you are and how many times you measure before you cut. :)

  15. What number / length Galvanized nails did you use? I didn't see that identified anywhere. Thank you.

    1. My husband says for nailing the 2x4s together you need 12p or 16p. For nailing the plywood to the 2x4s you need 8p. If you're using pressure-treated lumber, do NOT use galvanized nails. I hope that helps.

      I keep a black rubber stall mat cut to size on the plywood floor. It's easier to clean, more sanitary because of not having crevices in the wood where bacteria can hide. If you cut it a tad bigger than the floor, it helps keep the floor from getting wet.

  16. Thank you for the details and update; these were a help. I have one additional question as I am building this. What is the measurement from the lower inside 2x6 (has bolts through it) to the top of the platform? I couldn't find any measurements in the plans for this. I don't want to make this to high or to low, in order for our long legged dexter to get her head over this 2x6.
    Also, how far apart are the neck catchers?

    Thank you.

    1. We measured from the floor to the top of the crosspiece, since this is the measurement the head goes over. Ours is 15" from the floor. If you hold up a 15" measuring tape to your cow, you can see if you need to adjust it. That should work for chondro-positive Dexters, too, but I would advise double-checking the measurement.

    2. I updated the photo to show this measurement for clarity.


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