The Milking Bail

| 12/19/2011 5:49:51 PM

Tags: Milking bail, Milking parlor, Microdairy, Small-scale farming, Homesteading dairy, Community farming,

Nick Snelgar head shotWe have this week, experienced very heavy rain in extraordinary “ropes” from thick thundery skies. Our chalk land did its best to absorb the downpour. Talk about a top-up.

Now this time on this new blog, I want to describe the “milking bail.” The word was coined by the late Arthur Hosier in 1922. Hosier was a farmer in north Wiltshire (near Marlborough), Southern Britain working a farm of valleys and high chalk pasture sweeping up to 800 feet (260 metres) – land covered with wild grasses but  inaccessible from the homestead. His thinking was marvellous and new. He could see that milking large numbers of cows would allow him only to graze the land immediately close to the farmstead, the milking parlour and the sheds where the winter food would be kept.

He decided to construct a mobile milking parlour on wheels and he called it a “milking bail.” The contraption consisted of 6 cow stalls each with its own personal feed trough together with a stationary engine to drive the milking machine. The cows walked into the stalls for the food on offer; were milked by machine and afterwards, walked out of the stall straight into the pasture. The milk was stored in churns and taken to the dairy at the end of the milking session.

By these clever means Hosier could follow his milking herd (which quickly became herds in the plural) with the equipment needed to milk them rather than, twice a day, bringing the herd back from the pasture to the fixed and gloomy parlour at the farmstead. All the muck and mayhem was left on the pasture as prime fertilizer.

What a fantastic leap of lateral thought. By 1932 Hosier had 4 herds each of 70 cows; each with its own cheap outdoor “bail” (ref; Graham Harvey-”We want Real Food” and all his work on pasture farming).

So the endless task of scraping muck off expanses of concrete; the endless task of washing down with gallons of water twice a day; the timeless task of driving the herd to and from the pasture faded into Wiltshire memory.

mary carton
12/22/2011 1:57:39 AM

Nick welcome to GRIT from my 3 hooligans (as I call my Border collies) and myself. We milked around 150 cows on our dairy farm here in Alabama. My blog's name Rosedale Garden is taken from the name of our dairy farm, Rosedale Dairy. The dairy is gone now, but I have 3.5 acres of the farmland. Cleaned the barn many of times.

cindy murphy
12/21/2011 3:08:03 AM

Very interesting stuff, Nick - I love reading about inventions of the past, and am looking forward to hearing more of the revival of the milking bail on your farm.

christine byrne
12/20/2011 5:01:37 PM

What a brilliant idea! I cannot wait to read more.

nebraska dave
12/20/2011 2:34:40 PM

Nick, welcome to the GRIT world of blogging. Your first blog entry has left me waiting for more about your adventure into the milking bail. My experience when I was a youth was just as you described. Herding the cows into the barn twice a day to be milked and then cleaning up the mess they left afterward. The portable milking method seems to be a much better way of milking cows and I am very interested to hear your progress as you begin to put this method into practice. I live in the middle of USA. The state is Nebraska and our notoriety is agriculture, mostly corn and soy beans. We do have some dairy herds but most of the cattle herds are feed lots and are destined for human consumption. I'm not sure what chalk land is and our soil here ranges from hard pan clay to sandy. The bottom ground near the rivers are the best for growing but always have the threat of flooding. I look forward to future posts about the milking bail. Have a great day on the farm.

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