Building a Portable Milking Stanchion (pt. 1 The Headgate)

Building a Portable Milking Stanchion (pt. 1 The Headgate)

20160922_073511Being able to secure your cow while milking is one of those unique homestead pleasures that you don’t really appreciate until you have to try to do without.  I’ve tried milking out in the field, and while that 3 oz of fresh milk was delicious it was a far cry from being anything that I wanted to attempt on a larger scale!  That’s why when we made the leap to in house homestead dairy production one of the first things I did was build a stanchion.  We wanted to be able to move it (since we don’t have a permanent milking parlor yet), and since our stanchion was going to be restraining 1000 lb animals it had to be sturdy.

What I came up with was a walk through design (the head gate swings open when you’re done milking) so we don’t have to try to back the cow out when you’re finished which can be a pain.  The milking platform is elevated so that I can pick it up with the hayforks on the tractor, and as an added bonus it makes the milking process a lot more comfortable for the milk maids!  With the cow raised up about a foot it really makes cleaning the udder, milking, and working with her a whole lot easier.  At that height it’s a little iffy getting the ole’ girl to just step up into the stanchion, so I added a sturdy ramp that can easily be moved along with the rest of the setup.  We use a durable outdoor mat with a ruberized bottom for traction and easy cleanup (like this one).

So the overall dimensions of our stanchion are three feet wide by six feet 20160606_173747long by seven feet tall (3x6x7).  We have a relatively small jersey that we milk and she fits just right length wise, so if you milk a larger animal adjust the length accordingly….all other dimensions should be just fine for whatever you’re milking.

Materials need for this project:




3 inch deck screws

(2) 6 inch by 3/8 carriage bolt,nuts, & (6) washers

(3) heavy duty gate hinges

3 ft length of light chain


Head Gate:  The first step I tackled was the head gate.  We knew from the previous owner of our cow that a 7 inch wide catch was perfect for holding our girl’s head in place, depending on breed you might need to adjust yours.  Anyway, what you’ll  need is:

(3)2x4x48 uprights

(4)2x4x36 top and bottom rails

(1)2x4x50 movable head catch

screws and one nut,bolt,washers

First thing you’ll want to do is mark the center of your top and bottom rails (i.e. 18 inches), then measure half the finished opening distance for your head catch (in our case the finished opening was 7 inches, so I went 3 1/2 from the center in both directions).  This will be the inside edge layout for your catch.

Finished Headgate!

This is a kind of a sandwich style headgate with the top rails on the exterior and uprights as the filling (hopefully the picture will help this make sense).  Layout one top and one bottom rail on a level surface.  Place your first upright on top of them, align the corners and secure it to the rails top and bottom.  Repeat for the other side.  Make sure to square the corners by making equal diagonal measurements from oposite corner to corner. Next place your last upright for the fixed side of your head catch using one of the centerline layout marks you made earlier.  Be sure you secure that last board to the outside of the line otherwise your finished catch opening won’t be right.  Put the other two top rails in place and secure them completing the sandwich.  Double check for square and adjust as necessary.

Next take your last 2×4 (the 50 incher) and slide it in place between the rails top and bottom.  Allign the inside edges to the centerline layout marks you made earlier and double check you have the right gap (in our case 7 inches between the two inside uprights).  Temporarily screw this upright in place with one screw top and bottom, tripple check to make sure you have the right spacing (this is kinda important so…..).  Once you’re sure you have the layout right check it one more time before you move on!  In the center of the bottom rail where this last upright intersects (you’re looking for center in both directions), drill a 3/8 hole for your carriage bolt.  This will be your pivot point for locking the head catch in place and securing your animal in the stanchion.insert the bolt and snug it up, you don’t want to be super tight here since the board does have to move.  Once you’ve got the bolt in place go ahead and remove the two screws you used to temporarily hold the pivoting upright in place.  Test it out and make sure it pivots freely, adjust tightness as necessary.

That’s it you’ve got your head gate built!  This is the heart and soul of your stanchion, and you could really just start milking with just the headgate secured to a couple posts or stuck in a corner or something!  Next time we’ll build the milking platform and put the whole thing together.  Stay tuned…..

Part 2!


One thought on “Building a Portable Milking Stanchion (pt. 1 The Headgate)

  1. TCH,

    I really enjoy reading your blog. We are aligning things so that we too can be more self-sustaining in the near future.
    As a fellow Traditional Catholic, I thought you might enjoy tuning into . It is a daily radio program that has interesting content. Brother Andre Marie from is a regular contributor. Also, if you search “Mike Church Live” on YouTube, you can watch Mike Church’s live show Monday through Friday 8am -11am CST.

    Keep up the good work!

    Pax Domini,

    Ginger Trad

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