Monday, 14 July 2014

The old Cow Chains

The old Cow Chains

Up until the 1960's almost all milking cows were tied up by the neck in stalls to milk and feed, the old stalls were made of oak and the floors usually of blue brick as were the mangers. When new dairy regulations became stricter, they demanded that the floors of the cowsheds and stalls had got to be concrete, also the wooden stalls removed and either concrete stalls or tubular metal stall put in place so they could be kept scrubbed and clean.

The wooded hasp in the picture below, is fastened to the end wall of the old cowshed, and the only one left and over looked by the diary inspectors, as you see by the cobwebs, this has not been used for fifty years or more. The chains when in every day use were bright as silver, and the shed walls were kept white washed with burnt lime,

This is a very old hasp for the cow chain to slide up and down on, its made of oak by the village wheelwright could easily  be hundred and fifty years old. The chain  itself has a large hoop that hooks around the hasp and the chain threaded through a ring then a couple more links of chain to a swivel. From there the chain divide into two, one end with a tee bar the other end has some round links for the tee to threaded through to fasten round the cows neck 

This is the same pattern of chain, but a later version of hasp made of metal bolted to the wall, made by the blacksmith, the hook end of the chain that slides up and down is a lot smaller diameter the bar being a lot thinner than the oak hasp above 

My father told us a tale about a relative, not a close  relative you understand, who, having bought another farm, proceeded to drive his cows and all his livestock some ten miles after early morning milking to the new farm. When moving farms the cow chains in them days went with the farmer and his cows and to the new farm. After some six hours walking the stock along county lanes and roads they arrived and proceeded to fit the cow chains to the stalls, only to find they would not fit the stalls.
You see where he moved from they had all metal stall hasps and all his cow chains had the small ring to slide up and down them, but at this new farm, he had over looked the fact that all those stalls had the thicker oak hasps as you see in the top picture. I did not know how the tale ended but I have no doubt that that evenings milking was very late.

Every cow in the village and wide around this district, cows were always tied up by the neck to be housed and milked, it was only when milking parlours and loose housing in bedded up yards came in that thing began to change. I might add the the deep bedded straw yards were in the arable areas where straw was very plentiful, but around our area that was not the case and deep bedding no an option.
 Then in the late 1950's cubicles were invented, where the cows chose to go into  individual stall just to lay down and were free to walk about the yard and feed troughs at their will. These were deep bedded with saw dust or wood shavings and used even less bedding than they were using in the old cowshed method.
By 1980 the last herd of cows to be tied up were dispersed in a retirement sale, all those left had gone over to cubicle and parlour milking. By this time the herds were getting bigger and eighty or ninety cow herds became common place, the farms were no longer restricted to the number of stalls with chains per cow, and almost any shed or barn, cubicles could be quickly set up to expand the herd.

1920's it was ten cows per man to milk by hand, 1940's it was twenty to twenty five cows per man to milk with a machine with cows still in stalls, 1980's it was forty five to fifty cows per man milked through a parlour, at the turn of the century it went to nearer ninety cows per man, and now 2014 there is a 400 cow herd next door and two men milking.
At one time some twenty or more years ago, a loaf of bread and a pint of milk cost the same in the shops, now bread is four time the price of milk, where is the justice in that.

Quotation --
Hope is the poor man's bread.          
 George Herbert (1593 - 1633)